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How Stress Triggers Asthma & What To Do About It

Dr. Twinkle Behl

The physical effects of stress & a gush of emotions can act as asthma triggers.

Asthma affects different patients differently. For some, it is a minor inconvenience, for others, asthma can get in the way of their daily activities and even lead to life-threatening attacks. Asthma is a condition that leads to the swelling and inflammation of the airways that carry air to the lungs. During an asthma attack, these airways swell and produce extra mucus. This leads to difficulty in breathing, coughing, wheezing and lack of breath.

There is no cure for asthma, but its symptoms are very much manageable. Asthma attacks are usually triggered by various kinds of irritants and these are referred to as triggers. These triggers usually vary from person to person. When a person comes in contact with them, an attack is triggered which results in the swelling of the airways, thus causing difficulty in breathing. Some of the various triggers are:

  • Airborne triggers like pollen, dust mites, mold, dust, smoke and pet fur among others
  • Infections like the common cold
  • Strenuous activities like exercising
  • Cold air
  • Stress, anxiety and strong emotions
  • Certain types of medications
  • Acid reflux and food preservatives.

How stress affects asthma?

Stress is a very common trigger that can also worsen the symptoms of this condition. Stress and asthma together lead to panic, anxiety, and shortness of breath. An increase in stress due to mundane matters such as paying off bills or work can shoot off the symptoms. The wheezing and the coughing get worse and asthma combined with stress and anxiety turns into a vicious circle.

Persistent asthma causes symptoms to flare up more than twice per week. Such severe cases of asthma require long-term planning and therapy. Since stress is such an inseparable part of daily life, it becomes important for people with asthma to practice effective stress-management techniques. Relaxation in the face stress can help in preventing shortness of breath and severe asthma attacks. Mentioned below are some relaxation techniques that one can practice.

Identify sources of stress- Identifying the major contributors of stress such as money, grief, certain relationships and lack of support among others is the first step towards managing stress. It is important to resolve these issues (with professional help if required) in order to remain stress-free.

Change the line of thought- Practicing to consciously change stressful lines of thought can reduce stress and its effect on asthma. It is important to keep monitoring one’s stress levels and talk oneself out of stressful thought patterns.

Avoid or take breaks from stressful situations- Stressful events can never be completely ignored. However, it is perfectly alright to be wary of stressful situations and take breaks from them. Avoid situations that can trigger stress or symptoms of asthma. Practice time management, setting priorities and taking time for yourself.

Exercise daily- While hectic physical exercise might be an asthma trigger for some, it is nonetheless important to exercise in a well-planned and safe manner. Exercising is an excellent way to beat stress and it can help with the symptoms of asthma.

Seek support and practice relaxation exercises- Seeking the support of friends and family can be important for managing asthma. It can act as a shield against various kinds of stress and can help asthma patients in a variety of ways. They provide emotional support, help asthma patients remain active and independent, help with any kind of treatments prescribed by doctors and provide encouragement and support in following a treatment plan.

Advice for asthmatic people during the ongoing pandemic

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and can affect the lungs. The infection of the virus can cause an asthmatic person to develop an asthmatic attack, pneumonia or some other lung diseases. There are no large studies that indicate that asthma increases the risk of COVID-19 infection but if you do contract the virus, the symptoms would be worse than other people. Talk to a doctor immediately if you observe these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Precautions that lower your chances of COVID-19 infection

It is advised that you do not panic. Combat the fear through information and precaution. When detected on time, coronavirus can be treated effectively under observation in a hospital. Please follow good personal and hand hygiene and local safety measures. If your asthma is persistent or has become severe, then do not delay, consult with best pulmonologists on the MFine app.

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