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.
By Denise Grady
Two young brothers with the same chronic illness. One mother's struggle...and what she knows now about keeping her children healthy.
When I first learned that my older son had asthma, I imagined that it would go away in a few weeks or months. I clung to that bit of denial, I guess, because it helped ease the fear and sadness as reality sank in. Brian was only 3, and deep down my husband and I knew we were facing a serious chronic disease that would probably hang on...
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.