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Understanding Asthma and Other Health Conditions

Some health problems happen more often in people with asthma. The problems can make asthma symptoms worse and more difficult to control. Talk with your healthcare provider about how other health problems might be affecting your asthma. And if you smoke, stop! Smoking makes your asthma, as well as these other problems, worse.

Upper respiratory problems

Problems with your nose, sinuses, or throat can make your asthma symptoms worse. This can include a cold, sore throat, or the flu.

Hands holding soap under running water

You can help to prevent these illnesses by washing your hands often and trying to stay away from people who are sick. Make sure that you and others around you cover their noses and mouths when coughing or sneezing. You can also use a hand cleaner that has alcohol in it if you can't wash your hands with soap and water. Many offices and businesses have them available for use. You can also keep small bottles at work, in your car, or in your purse. And make sure you get a flu shot every year!

Many people with asthma also have long-term problems with their noses (rhinitis) or sinuses (chronic sinusitis). With these problems you may have a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, coughing, headache, or other symptoms. These problems may also make your asthma worse. The symptoms may be from infections or allergies (see Allergies below). Make sure you tell your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms. There are medicines and other treatments available.

Allergies

Asthma may be caused by allergies. Your asthma may be caused by things in the environment. Or it can also be caused by allergens that you inhale. The allergens that cause asthma in some people are commonly found indoors, but some are also outdoors. For example, some people are allergic to dust, animals, or insects. The best thing you can do is to try to stay away from those things that cause your asthma to worsen. That is not easy. Your healthcare provider may recommend allergy testing so that you know what is causing your asthma. If allergies are identified, you can figure out ways to lessen your contact with your allergens with the help of your healthcare provider.

Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux or GERD)

Many people with asthma also have acid reflux or GERD. GERD occurs when stomach acid backs up. This acid can irritate your airways. The symptoms of GERD may be heartburn, a sour taste, coughing, or a hoarse voice. In people with asthma, symptoms may be especially bad at night. Your healthcare provider can recommend treatment, including changes in your diet or medicine.

Being overweight

Asthma may be worse in people who are overweight, especially if they are very overweight. Losing weight is important to help improve your asthma symptoms. It is also a hard thing to do. Your healthcare provider can recommend treatment to help you lose weight. Making healthy food choices, exercising every day, and having emotional support from friends and family are important parts of a plan to reach a healthy weight.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a blockage in the airways that causes trouble breathing during sleep. It is more common in people who are overweight and is also linked with some serious health problems. It may also be present in people with asthma that is difficult to control. Your healthcare provider may order tests to see if your symptoms are from asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, or both.

Stress and depression

Stress and depression can both make asthma more difficult to manage. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are having trouble dealing with stress or if you are having symptoms of depression. Although you can’t get rid of all stress, you can learn to better manage it. And there is very effective treatment for depression, including counseling and medicines.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Blaivas, Allen J., DO
  • Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN