Stress Management Brings Asthma, Allergy Benefits

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS -- Treating patients' stress can also improve their asthma and allergies, Dr. Gailen D. Marshall Jr. said at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

"There is clearly a relationship between stress and allergic and asthmatic disease." Treating stress "is cheap. It's easy to do. And if that may translate into a positive outcome, it is extremely important," said Dr. Marshall, University of Texas, Houston.

Physical stresses for asthma and allergy patients include comorbid conditions, such as rhinitis; illness; exhaustion and fatigue; and side effects of medications and interventions.

On the psychological side, poor self-esteem can play a role in allergy and asthma, as can anxiety, depression, fear, anger, and self-pity.

"For intervention with stress and asthma, the rationale is to minimize these negative mindsets and emotions to maximize the efficacy of medication and to improve adherence," he said.

Stress management is a more realistic goal than is stress reduction, which "is probably not terribly practical for many of our patients," Dr. Marshall said.

He suggested helping patients develop a positive outlook and stressing the importance of having a support system of family and friends. He also said that having a belief system that outlines a kind of order to everything--a way of thinking that is not necessarily tied to religion--may give patients a perceived measure of control.

Overall, patients should be taught to recognize their limitations in coping with either the intensity or duration of stress before it takes them over.

Asthma therapy itself can help manage stress in these patients. Working in partnership with patients, educating them, finding a way to effectively manage asthma, and creating an action plan grant patients some additional control over their illness.

Dr. Marshall said that he first noticed there might be a connection between stress and asthma and allergies when many of his medical students showed up with upper respiratory problems in the middle of the Texas ragweed season, which happened to coincide with the first exams of the year. …