Can Stress Trigger Asthma Symptoms?

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Published: November 13, 2017
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Q: I have moderate asthma and work in a busy accounting department. As we get into a stressful tax period, I’m finding my asthma worsens. Despite using a daily steroid inhaler, I also have to use my puffer to stop breathing difficulty two or three times a week. Can stress play a role in asthma? How do I get this under control? 

Dr. Bassett: Stress is a known trigger for asthma. In fact, in a study out in the U.K., almost two-thirds of people with asthma surveyed reported stress was an asthma trigger for them.

It has been speculated that when you’re under stress your body can go into a “fight” mode, with an increase in muscle tension, sensation of chest tightness or bronchospasm, as well as an increase in breathing rate and possible hyperventilation.

Managing the underlying stress, whether it’s coming from work, family or something else, is critical in improved asthma control and symptoms.

Things such as exercising (as tolerated with your asthma), medication and getting enough sleep can help to reduce your stress.

You could also look to interventions like cognitive therapy and biofeedback (training a function of your body, such as breathing, using electronic sensors). It is also essential that you have a written asthma action plan to help you monitor your condition.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, allergist and asthma specialist, is the Medical Director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York (Allergyreliefnyc.com; Twitter @allergyreliefny). He is on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and is also the author of The New Allergy Solution: Supercharge Resistance, Slash Medication, Stop Suffering.

See also:
Allergic Living’s Guide to Asthma

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