At one time or another, almost everyone has had to cope with a bit of halitosis—the technical term for bad breath. While most people associate such bad breath with poor oral hygiene or dietary choices, doctors now recognize that breath problems can be a big clue to asthma or other respiratory problems.

What You Should Know About Asthma and Bad Breath

If you have asthma or another lung condition, lungs have a much higher acid level that affects your breath and leads to a very distinct odor. In addition, the more severe your respiratory condition is, the more extreme the odor. Other conditions that can cause bad breath include cystic fibrosis and lung cancer.

Bad breath that's caused by respiratory ailments typically won't be solved by common strategies such as brushing your teeth, using mouthwash, or chewing gum.

Research on Lungs and Bad Breath

With bad breath and respiratory conditions so closely linked, researchers from the University of Virginia have determined that using a breathalyzer can be an easy and inexpensive way to get a proper diagnosis of asthma and other lung problems. In a study reported in the European Respiratory Journal in 2003, the scientists tracked the acid levels in the breath of healthy participants over the course of a week so they could compare the results against those with asthma. They discovered that people with healthy lungs have steadier pH levels in their breath and a more alkaline content, while asthmatics had more fluctuation in pH levels and have higher acid content overall.

What You Can Do

If you're coping with a persistent breath odor problem and none of your efforts seem to have any impact, see your doctor to determine if your problem could be asthma-related. If you do have any health issues that are causing your bad breath, remember that addressing the underlying issue (such as avoiding triggers and using your medication as directed) is often the key to help get your breath to smell fresh again.




Medical News Today. "People with lung diseases have bad breath." 28 Dec. 2003. Web. 21 April 2012.

Medline Plus. "Breath Odor." Web. 21 April 2012.

Vaughan, J. et al. "Exhaled breath condensate pH is a robust and reproducible assay of airway acidity." European Respiratory Journal 22 (6) (Dec. 2003): 889-894. Web. 27 April 2012.