We all experience times of stress, whether it’s from a major life event like a death in the family, or everyday stuff like traffic or a to-do list that’s too long. Many of us can deal with stress when it happens, but if you’re one of the 24 million Americans suffering from asthma, stress can be a much bigger issue. Just like exposure to pollen, mold, pet dander or cigarette smoke, stress can trigger an asthma attack.
One small University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that students with asthma had significantly higher lung inflammation during finals than during periods of lower stress. Other studies show that children from stressful home environments are more likely to develop asthma, and people have worse asthma symptoms after a stressful event happens to them or people close to them.
Why Stress May Trigger Asthma
The connection between stress and asthma isn’t surprising, really. When you get stressed, your body releases stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Among other effects (like your blood pressure and heart rate going up), you breathe faster and your muscles get tense—even the muscles that surround your airways. Stress also alters the way the immune system works and increases inflammation in the body. All these changes make the airways more sensitive and more likely to clench up, causing an attack. There’s even some suggestion that stress can make asthma treatments less effective.
And it’s a vicious cycle: Worrying about having an asthma attack can stress you out, upping the chances that you’ll have one.
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but figuring out effective ways to manage stress can help you avoid a potential asthma attack. Here are some tips to help you stress less:
It’s important to note that if fear of an asthma attack is causing you stress, this may be a sign that your asthma is not well controlled. You may want to reach out to your doctor to discuss stepping up your treatment. This AskMD consultation can help you start the conversation.
Asthma can be mild or severe, and is classified by how your breathing is affected. Most alarming are asthma attacks, episodes of severe coughing or wheezing where it is very hard to catch your breath; but asthma can also be a chro...nic condition. Treatment is by anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators. More