February 4, 2020

Can Stress Trigger Asthma?

Photo of woman using Asthma Inhaler

Our bodies are quite fond of breathing, especially relaxed, easy breathing.

We take it for granted until airways become inflamed and breathing difficulties crop up. Many asthma patients report that stress triggers their asthma…or is it that their asthma stresses them out? Yes to both.

A trigger is anything that causes asthma symptoms to flare. Anything from pollen to pollution and even stress can trigger the body’s airways to tighten and inflame, making it tough to breathe. Stress can actually make you more sensitive to your other asthma triggers.

Our stress levels can shoot through the roof thanks to family, finances, work, big life changes – pick a day, and it could be something different. Any type of stress can trigger the release of hormones that cause difficulty breathing and chest tightness. This naturally results in panicky feelings, which then lead to even more stress. It can be a tough cycle to get under control.

Stress can also disrupt routines that usually keep asthma attacks at bay. For instance, you may normally be rock solid about taking your daily controller medication and keeping a rescue inhaler nearby. When you’re under a lot of stress, you might forget these things altogether and end up more susceptible to an asthma attack.

In another knock against stress (as if we needed more evidence!), chronic stress reduces our immune system’s ability to fight off viruses and bacteria that want to make us sick. Respiratory illnesses can lead to asthma flare-ups.

Making a concerted effort to manage stress can pay big dividends for asthma patients. It should come as no surprise that prioritizing good sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising regularly are tops on the list of ways to reduce stress. A few other ideas include setting and sticking with priorities (and letting some things go), taking time for yourself, and seeking professional help if you can’t seem to get a handle on it.

Whatever you choose to help you down the road of stress relief, also reach out to your allergist to ensure that your asthma gets and stays under control. This in itself will help relieve some of your stress and improve your quality of life.