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Everything You Should Know About Stress-Induced Asthma

Overview

Stress-induced asthma is asthma triggered by stress. Asthma is a chronic lung disease. The airways of people with this condition become inflamed, narrowed, and filled with secretions. This makes breathing difficult.

Several things can trigger an asthma attack, including stress. Read on to learn about the connection between stress and asthma.

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Stress-induced asthma

Is stress-induced asthma real?

There is ongoing research as to the exact role of stress and stress hormones in asthma. Stress does appear to trigger asthma attacks in some people.

One study found a significant stressful life experience, such as the death of a close family member, increased the risk of an asthma attack by nearly twofold in children with asthma.

Research has also shown that the body’s response to stress triggers the immune system and causes the release of certain hormones. This can lead to inflammation within the airways of the lungs, triggering an asthma attack.

Living with asthma may also cause stress and anxiety. Some studies have shown that asthma is associated with a higher likelihood of developing panic disorder later in life.

Symptoms

Symptoms of stress-induced asthma

Symptoms of stress-induced asthma are the same as those of other types of asthma, but are triggered by a period of stress. Symptoms may include:

  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • chest tightness

Is it stress-induced asthma or a panic attack?

A panic attack may feel like a stress-induced asthma attack. That’s because they share many of the same symptoms. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two when they are happening, but it’s important to know the difference.

If you have asthma, talk to your doctor about having a peak flow meter at home. This can help determine if your breathlessness is due to an asthma attack. It’s important to recognize and treat an asthma attack because it can be much more serious, or even life-threatening, if not managed properly.

See your doctor if you have shortness of breath and other asthma symptoms. They can determine the cause of your symptoms.

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Triggers

Stress-induced asthma triggers

Stress-induced asthma can be triggered by anything that causes stress, such as:

  • pressure at work
  • difficulties in school
  • conflict in a personal relationship
  • financial frustrations
  • any significant life-changing event

In some cases, you may not be able to identify the trigger.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis

You should always see a doctor if you’re having difficulty breathing. Your doctor can help determine the cause.

Asthma is diagnosed using a variety of methods including:

  • a chest X-ray
  • lung function tests and peak flow measurements
  • a physical exam
  • an examination of your medical history
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Treatment

Treatment

There’s no cure for asthma, but it can be managed. When treating stress-induced asthma, you’ll need to treat both the asthma and the stress.

Asthma medications

Asthma medications typically fall into two categories: long-term controllers and quick relievers. Both are usually taken through an inhaler or nebulizer, though some come in a pill form. Injections may be necessary during severe attacks.

Stress reduction

Avoiding triggers can help reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. In the case of stress-induced asthma, that means limiting stress.

Stress-management, therapy, and antianxiety medication may all be used to help manage stress and anxiety. To get you started, we’ve put together a list of ways to help relieve stress.

Some additional tips:

  • Control your breathing: Use deep inhales and exhales to manage your reaction to a situation. Box breathing can be a useful tool.
  • Step away from a stressful situation: If you’re feeling stressed and panicked, remove yourself from the situation, if possible.
  • Meditate: Meditation can help you learn to quiet your mind and control your breathing. If you’re new to meditation, a meditation app may help you learn to meditate.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise may help reduce your stress. Even a short walk can help quiet the mind.
  • Sleep seven to eight hours a night: Feeling rested can make it easier to manage daily stress.
  • Try yoga or tai chi: These practices may be useful ways to reduce stress.

If self-management techniques aren’t enough, you may need to talk to your doctor about cognitive behavioral therapy, or consider taking an antianxiety medication.

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Outlook

Outlook

Talk to your doctor if you experience trouble breathing. Your doctor can determine if you’re experiencing stress-induced asthma and help manage your condition.

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