Date on Honors Thesis

Winter 12-2020


Communication Disorders

Examining Committee Member

Dr. Nikki Gaylord, Advisor

Examining Committee Member

Susan Brown, Committee Member

Examining Committee Member

Megan Smetana, Committee Member


Sensations of shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are not uncommon, especially among athletes and those who regularly engage in aerobic activities. Often, athletes will seek treatment for their respiratory symptoms and may be diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. Doctors prescribe inhalers to these individuals to help alleviate their symptoms; however, there are occasions in which inhalers fail to lessen the severity of breathing difficulties. This is because asthma is not the only condition that can cause shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea. There exists another condition which affects the vocal folds but not the lungs and bronchioles as is seen in the case of asthma. This condition, which is often misdiagnosed as asthma, is known as exercise-induced laryngeal obstruction (EILO). EILO occurs when an individual’s vocal folds approximate in adduction, therefore closing off the airway and preventing inhalation of adequate oxygen. Characteristics of EILO include difficulties breathing during exercise, an audible stridor, and tightness in the neck and throat. EILO does not respond to steroid inhalers and has a different etiology than exercise-induced asthma. For this reason and for the benefit of all who experience difficulties as a result of exercise, doctors should rule out EILO before prescribing an inhaler that may yield no benefits for its user. It is essential that doctors be able to differentiate between exercise-induced asthma and EILO so that they can provide the proper therapies and treatments to their patients or clients.

The various forms of testing and treatments for EILO will be examined through a literary review. This literary review will also draw attention to the many differences between EILO and exercise-induced asthma that are vital to the process of differential diagnosis. Articles written by doctors, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and other professionals on the matter will be compared in order to demonstrate the best possible means of diagnosis and forms of treatment for individuals with EILO.