Stress is a common trigger of asthma symptoms. Stress and anxiety can also cause asthma attacks.
Asthma is a condition in which the airways become inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms typically come and go with triggers, such as irritants, humid weather, and exercise.
In this article, we look at the link between stress and asthma in more detail.
Stress and asthma
When a person feels stressed, they may notice that their asthma symptoms flare up. Periods of stress can increase the severity, frequency, and duration of asthma symptoms.
Stress can cause people to become more sensitive to their asthma triggers. Common triggers include pet dander, pollen, humidity, and cold, dry air.
Stressors might include work, school, or family stress. Significant life changes and traumatic experiences can also cause stress.
Stress can make inflammation worse, and it can trigger shortness of breath or breathing difficulties, all of which can exacerbate asthma symptoms.
If a person can manage their asthma, they are less likely to experience stress or anxiety related asthma.
Stress can also indirectly cause asthma flare-ups. A person who is stressed may experience certain emotions, such as anger and irritation, more strongly. Strong emotions can trigger asthma symptoms.
A person who experiences stress for prolonged periods may feel more anxious. Anxiety can trigger panic attacks that can, in turn, cause an asthma attack.
People may also sometimes find that stress leads to unhealthful habits, such as smoking or drinking alcohol. These habits can trigger asthma.
Symptoms of stress-induced asthma
People may notice that their normal asthma symptoms worsen when they feel overly stressed or anxious. This feeling can be temporary, such as before an exam, or it can be due to chronic stress, which occurs over an extended period.
Asthma symptoms are similar regardless of the trigger. Common symptoms of asthma include:
- tightness in the chest
- trouble breathing
- rapid breathing
- shortness of breath
Managing stress with asthma
People may find relief from asthma symptoms by making some lifestyle changes to help manage their stress levels.
Getting enough rest, eating a healthful diet, and exercising regularly are often effective ways to reduce stress levels.
Stress is most likely to affect asthma when the condition is not under control. People can usually reduce asthma flare-ups by following the treatment plan that a doctor prescribed.
If the current medications are not effective enough, people can visit their doctor to discuss changing or refining their treatment plan.
Some people benefit from taking more of their asthma medication during periods of stress.
The following steps can help people manage their stress and reduce the likelihood of it triggering an asthma attack:
- getting adequate sleep each night
- exercising regularly
- walking away from stressful situations at home, work, or school
- doing yoga or other forms of meditative exercise
- focusing on controlling the breathing
- practicing meditation
- trying counseling