- Del Meyer, MD - https://delmeyer.net -

Asthma & Stress

We have always known that stress can aggravate asthma. Stress can aggravate a lot of illnesses, from coronary heart disease to peptic ulcer disease. But can stress cause disease where none previously exists?

From 1994 to 1996, researchers at the Channing Laboratory at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, studied 496 children recruited from a Boston hospital within 48 hours of birth. They wanted to determine if the level of caregiver stress could cause an increased risk of asthma in children who had a genetic predisposition to asthma.

Of the 496 children, 287 (58%) never wheezed during the 14 months of the study, 116 (23%) had one episode, 47 (9) had two, 28 (6%) had three and 18 (4%) had four asthma attacks. After correcting for maternal smoking, breast feeding frequency, number of respiratory infections, birth weight, parental asthma, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, they found that higher levels of caregiver stress predicted an increase risk of wheeze. White caregivers had a lower level of stress than Hispanics. Divorced and single caregivers showed a higher level of stress than those that were married. As household income increased, stress levels decreased.

In a related study, allergic reactions to a potent German cockroach allergen can cause severe asthmatic attacks which may result in emergency room visits for sensitive asthmatic children. This allergen elicits immunoglobulin E (IgE) response in 60-80 % of allergic patients. Cockroach allergen (Bla g 2) is not linked to enzymatic activity as dust mite allergens have shown. The “enzyme hypothesis” for allergic reaction was originally developed to explain why dust mite allergens are so strongly associated with the development of allergic responses. This hypothesis is based on the fact that dust mites are enzymes.

For more complete information, please visit the American Thoracic Society Online Web Site: www.atsjournals.org