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Stress and Asthma

Stress is a common asthma trigger. An asthma trigger is anything that brings on asthma symptoms. When you have stress and asthma, you might feel short of breath, anxious, and even panicked. Stress may cause your asthma symptoms to worsen and cause you to feel frightened.

When stress levels start to creep upward -- whether it's over bills, work, or your kids' jam-packed calendar -- asthma symptoms can kick into overdrive. As the wheezing and coughing gets worse, your health becomes one more reason to worry. Asthma, stress, and anxiety make for a vicious circle, and one that can spiral downward quickly.

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When Asthma Treatment Triggers More Anxiety

With persistent asthma, you have symptoms more than once a week, but not constantly. Treating persistent asthma requires long-term maintenance therapy, such as an inhaled steroid, plus rescue therapy when something triggers symptoms. And when your symptoms are out of control (in the red zone, a severe asthma attack), prednisone for asthma might be necessary for a few days. The problem is that prednisone often causes mood swings as a side effect, adding fuel to your anxiety.

Remember, prednisone is a short-term treatment for most people with asthma. After you finish taking the "burst" of oral steroids, your mood will return to normal. Inhaled steroids don't cause permanent mood changes.

If your long-term asthma medication doesn't work well, and wheezing and chest tightness occur too often, a vicious circle can begin where anxiety worsens asthma, and asthma worsens anxiety. That's when you need to talk to your doctor about your symptoms, triggers, and stress. Also discuss other asthma treatment options that can get asthma under control again, so you can prevent symptoms of asthma.

How to Manage Stress With Asthma

Stress is part of daily life -- with or without asthma. That's why it's important to find effective ways to manage stress if you do have the disorder. Learning to relax before you feel stressed can help you prevent shortness of breath and avoid an asthma attack.

Change Your Thoughts. Learn to change thought patterns that produce stress. What you think, how you think, what you expect, and what you tell yourself often determine how you feel and how well you manage rising stress levels.

Reduce Your Stressors. Identify the major stressors in your life such as money problems, relationship problems, grief, too many deadlines, and lack of support. If you can't resolve these stressors alone, get professional help.

Avoid Stressful Situations. Try to avoid situations that trigger stress for you. Practice effective time-management skills, such as delegating when appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and taking time out for yourself.

Exercise Daily. Get some exercise. Exercising with asthma is an excellent way to burn off the accumulated effects of stress and also keep your body healthy.

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