Asthma Frequently Asked Questions

How will pregnancy affect my asthma?

Pregnancy can cause changes in asthma symptoms and uncontrolled asthma can impact the course of your pregnancy. About one-third of patients have worsening of their asthma with pregnancy, one-third remain unchanged, and the other third actually experience improvement of asthma during pregnancy. Every pregnant patient with asthma should work closely with their obstetrician and an asthma specialist.

How does cigarette smoking affect asthma?

Active smoking in patients with asthma has been linked to more severe symptoms, a worse quality of life, reduced lung function, and greater use of health care services. It is extremely important that patients with asthma who smoke make every effort to stop smoking.

Are there medications that a patient with asthma should avoid?

Some patients with asthma may experience symptoms of wheezing, cough, or chest tightness after taking certain medications such as beta blockers (Atenolol, Lopressor, Coreg, Labetolol), aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Motrin, Aleve), and cholinergic stimulators such as pilocarpine. It is important to remind your physicians that you have asthma when they are prescribing new medication or if you are scheduled to undergo surgery under general anesthesia.

Can people with asthma have pets?

Pets (i.e., cats, dogs, hamsters, and guinea pigs), can often trigger asthma by initiating an allergic reaction. This is not only related to the fur, but also to proteins found in animal’s shed skin (dander), urine, and saliva that trigger a cascade of chemical reactions that result in chest tightness, wheezing, cough, and even throat closure. The best way to control asthma and allergies due to animals is to avoid the animals to which you have an allergy, including removing them from your home.

What is the relationship between exercise and asthma?

Exercise-induced symptoms occur in up to 80 percent of patients with asthma and may be a sign that asthma is not controlled. Symptoms often do not start until after the patient stops exercising and usually peak 10-15 minutes after stopping. There are techniques used by professional and non-professional athletes alike that can reduce exercise-induced asthma symptoms. These techniques include “warming up” prior to exercise and “cooling down” afterwards. Patients with asthma should not avoid exercise since exercise benefits overall health. Several medications are available that are taken prior to exercise to reduce exercise-associated symptoms. Patients are encouraged to discuss the role of regular exercise in asthma with their physician. If you are over 40 years old, have other health conditions or are overweight, you should speak with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Patients should advise their physician if they have shortness of breath or chest discomfort during exercise since these symptoms may be a sign of other health conditions including heart disease.

Can diet influence asthma?

There are many potential ways that diet can play a role in asthma. One area of interest is the role of vitamins, particularly ones with antioxidant properties such as vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A). An antioxidant is a chemical that can prevent the formation of free radicals, substances that can damage cells in the body. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with worsening asthma in some studies. Your physician will advise you whether you should be tested for vitamin deficiency and whether you would benefit from meeting with a nutritionist.

It has been clearly established that obesity is a risk factor for asthma and that obesity can worsen asthma control. Weight loss is associated with improvement in asthma. The Asthma Program team will work with you to address issues related to weight and will refer you to experts who specialize in healthy weight loss strategies.