How Stress May Affect Your Asthma

Stress and asthma are connected. Find out how emotions and asthma symptoms may be related.

By Mary Armstrong, Contributing Writer

Asthma triggers may differ for each person. Everyday demands like traffic jams, work deadlines and family quarrels can cause stress and anxiety. For some people, stress or anxiety may trigger their asthma.

What's the stress and asthma connection?
Stress doesn’t cause asthma, but it can make it worse in some people. Stress is just one of many triggers for asthma attacks in some people. When stressed, you may breathe faster and may take shallower breaths. This can make asthma symptoms worse and harder to manage.

Recognizing and managing stress
Asthma is a disease that needs long-term management and medication. Knowing your triggers and having a personalized plan in place also can help you control the symptoms.

Stress shows up in many ways and varies from person to person. You might feel angry or irritable, or get headaches or find that you can’t concentrate. You can learn ways to recognize high stress levels, which may help you cope with and better manage your asthma.

Small studies on relaxation techniques have offered encouraging results about their effect on managing asthma, but more research is still needed. Other complementary practices — including acupuncture, herbal supplements and breathing exercises — have not been shown to be effective in treating asthma.

Lifestyle changes to help reduce stress
Whether or not you have asthma, adopting healthy habits is a good idea and may help you better cope with stress. Some healthy lifestyle habits include:

If you’re trying to improve your health habits, don’t try to change everything at once. Altering old habits can be hard. Focus on one thing at a time until you feel comfortable moving on to another change you want to make.

And remember, you’re not alone. Talking to family members and close friends about your stress may help. If your stress starts to overwhelm you, talk to your doctor or another medical professional for help.