Why Stress Makes Asthma Worse

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Question: Does Stress Affect My Asthma?

Answer: Stress has been shown to worsen asthma in numerous studies. Stress can make you feel breathless and may even worsen your asthma symptoms. If stress is a trigger for your asthma, you need to be realistic. It is unlikely that you can eliminate all stress from your life. Instead, it is important to learn how to avoid unhealthy stress, manage stress that cannot he avoided, and learn to relax to prevent asthma symptoms and not panic.

Is All Stress Unhealthy?

While we generally think of stress as a bad thing, not all stress is unhealthy. It is often what drives us to succeed and get things done. How we deal with stress is very personal. Some people need tight deadlines to get their best work done, while others need to plan everything well in advance. Going after a promotion at work or trying to meet new people can be stressful, but the benefits can lead to excitement and rewards that far outweigh the stress. Just knowing how you deal with the everyday stresses of getting stuff done may be important for you to manage the stresses of everyday life.

Yes, some levels of stress can a good thing. But chronic stress, on the other hand, is not good for you or your asthma. It can come from many different sources, and can impact your immune system and impact your health and your asthma.

What Can I Do to Manage My Stress?

There are a number of lifestyle changes and active strategies that you can implement as part of a stress management program, such as:

  • Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol
  • Identifying your stressors and trying to reduce them
  • Practicing relaxation techniques

Stress does not have to be a big deal for your asthma if you can identify it and make appropriate changes.


Bienenstock, S. Stress and Asthma: The Plot Thickens Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med., Volume 165, Number 8, April 2002, 1034-1035.

Rietveld S, Everaerd W, Creer TL. Stress-induced asthma: a review of research and potential mechanisms. Clin Exp Allergy 2000; 30: 1058-1066.

Liu LY, Coe CL, Swenson CA, Kelly EA, Kita H, Busse WW. School examinations enhance airway inflammation to antigen challenge. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2002; 165: 1062-1067.

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