What to Know About a Bronchospasm

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 10, 2021
3 min read

Some acute bronchospasm causes are:

  • Asthma
  • Allergens
  • Infections
  • Cold air
  • Chemicals
  • Exercise
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • A family predisposition for diseases in the lungs and asthma

People who work in jobs that require exposure to chemicals, smoke, fumes, or vapors will often develop bronchospasms. These jobs can include:

  • Firefighters
  • Police officers
  • Emergency workers
  • Cleaners
  • Farmers
  • Welders

Typically, acute bronchospasm symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Tightness in chest
  • Wheezing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stomachache
  • Tiring quickly during aerobic movement
  • Feeling very tired after physical exercise

Bronchospasms are uncomfortable. They make it hard to breathe in and out fully. You will start to wheeze when you try to exhale. It can also feel like regular coughing. 

This coughing, wheezing, and irritation in your airways causes mucus, which blocks the airways even more. If that progresses, your chest muscles will tighten, and you may develop a fever. 

It depends on the underlying cause. Bronchospasms caused by exercise are treated differently than other bronchospasms. 

Exercise bronchospasm treatment

Exercise-induced bronchospasms, which are often called exercise-induced asthma, occur when you exercise for up to twenty minutes straight. They are technically caused by asthma but can be aggravated by things like the weather and humidity. 

If you have exercise-induced bronchospasms, you should:

  • Use a regular inhaler before you exercise
  • Take a mast cell stabilizer
  • Use a long-acting inhaler
  • Take specialized, anti-inflammatory medication

Treatment for exercise-induced acute bronchospasms will be aimed at symptom management rather than a comprehensive treatment. The goal will be to increase your quality of life and make it easier to get physical exercise. You will need to meet with your doctor and find which of these treatments is right for you.

Treatment for other types of bronchospasms

Your doctor may prescribe the following medication to treat your bronchospasms:

  • Bronchodilators. Also known as inhalers, these help you open your airways and give your lungs relief from spasms. 
  • Corticosteroids. Your doctor may give you these medications to reduce inflammation in your lungs and airways. 
  • Mast cell stabilizers or leukotriene inhibitors. These are medications that prevent inflammation.  

Take the medicine as your doctor instructs. For example, if you are given an inhaler, do not use the inhaler more than once every four hours unless your doctor says so. Likewise, if you have been given an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory medication, make sure to take the entire round of medicine you were given. 

If you find that you’re reaching for your inhaler at a rate higher than what you were prescribed or at an increased rate, see your doctor. Your bronchospasms and the underlying cause of them might be getting worse. 

Here are other tips for keeping your bronchospasms under control:

  • Drink around ten glasses of fluid or water a day, especially during an attack. The more liquid you drink, the more your lung secretions will thin out and the easier it will be to breathe. However, if you have heart or kidney disease, this may not apply to you. Check with your doctor. 
  • Avoid smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. 

You may have to avoid specific environments, foods, or weather if you have bronchospasms.