Don't Let Stress Complicate Your Asthma

After a stressful week, you may find your asthma acting up. And sometimes, dealing with asthma can become very stressful. So does asthma cause stress or is it the other way around? The answer is more complicated than you may think.

The Link Between Stress and Asthma

While asthma is recognized as a medical condition, emotions can trigger the symptoms or make them worse. In the past, doctors believed that stress could be enough to cause someone to develop asthma. Today, though, most experts understand that stress itself doesn't cause the condition, but a person who already suffers from asthma can certainly find his symptoms worse when he's under increased stress. When asthma flares out of control, the symptoms themselves can cause anxiety or stress, creating a cycle that's hard to break.

Research on Stress and Asthma

In recent years, scientists have looked to asthmatics' living conditions and socioeconomic statuses to identify why some people seem more prone to experience stress with asthma. One possible explanation is that people who live in inner cities, where rates of serious asthma cases are higher, experience more psychological stress and the researchers believe this isn't a coincidence. Findings published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in May 2010 seem to confirm this fact. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania recently spent six months tracking the health status of almost 400 adults with asthma who lived in an inner-city neighborhood. They gathered information about their socio-economic status and past exposure to violence. When the experts put all of the pieces together, they discovered that asthmatics who had first-hand experience with violence had almost twice the number of hospital visits, as well as a lower quality of life overall, than those with asthma who hadn't been exposed to any violence.

How Stress and Asthma Occur

Another 2010 study published in JACI looked at the actual impact of stress on the body to see how this related to asthma. The scientists discovered that the hormones released when someone is under stress, along with other physical changes that occur, causes the airways to become inflamed and as a result elicits asthma triggers.

What You Can Do

While you may not live in an inner city neighborhood and hopefully haven't experienced any violence yourself, you probably do feel the effects of every day stress on your body and your airways. You don't have to remain stuck in the asthma and stress cycle, though. The best way to protect yourself is by working with your doctor to develop an asthma action plan, which includes crucial information on avoiding your triggers, monitoring your symptoms, and taking your medications as prescribed.

Take Control

You'll also benefit from practicing stress management techniques, such as exercising regularly, engaging in yoga, breathing deeply, and being realistic when it comes to taking on various commitments so you don't find yourself feeling overwhelmed.

In addition, be sure to eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and avoid illness as best you can, so when you do experience stressful situations, your body will be at its best to deal with the effects.




"AAAAI JACI Highlights: Community Violence in Inner City Neighborhoods Contributes to Trouble with Asthma." American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. AAAAI, March 2010. Web. 7 July 2011.

"Asthma and Stress." American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. ACAAI, n.d. Web. 5 July 2011.

Haczku, Angela and Reynold A. Panettieri Jr. "Social Stress and Asthma: The Role of Corticosteroid Insensitivity." The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 125: 3 (March 2010): 550-558. Web. 7 July 2011.

Li, James. "How Does Stress Affect Asthma?" ABC News., 12 August 2008.