Bronchospasm—Adult

Bronchospasm—Adult

Reactive Airway Disease, Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome, Occupational Asthma

Ree-Ac-Tiv Air-Way Disease

Definition

Bronchospasm is narrowing of the airways due to a trigger. It is a symptom, not a diagnosis.

Airways to Lungs

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

The narrow airway is caused by muscle spasms around the airway. There is also swelling and increased mucus in the airway. It is triggered by allergens, infections, cold air, or chemicals. The triggers vary from person to person.

It is not clear what causes the tissue to overreact. It may be due to environment, genes, and biology.

Risk Factors

The risk of bronchospasm is higher in people who have:

  • A family history of reactive airway disease or asthma
  • Allergies
  • Jobs with exposure to chemicals, smoke, fumes, or vapors. This may include:
    • Fire fighters, police, and other emergency services workers
    • Cleaners
    • Farmers
    • Welders
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke

Symptoms

Symptoms of bronchospasm may be:

  • Coughing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Problems breathing

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may ask about things that might have triggered symptoms.

Tests may be done to look for allergies, infections, lung problems, or chemical exposures.

Treatment

The goal is to ease swelling and symptoms. One or more medicines may be used, such as:

  • Bronchodilators—to open the airways
  • Corticosteroids—to ease inflammation
  • Mast cell stabilizers or leukotriene inhibitors—to prevent inflammation

Prevention

Bronchospasms cannot always be prevented. Finding triggers can stop more events. Triggers can be avoided or managed. Steps will depend on the trigger or allergy.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Asthma & Immunology
http://www.aaaai.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Asthma Society of Canada
http://www.asthma.ca

References:

Asthma in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/asthma-in-adults-and-adolescents. Accessed July 27, 2021.
Chronic cough in adults—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/chronic-cough-in-adults-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed July 27, 2021.
Lau A, Tarlo SM. Update on the management of occupational asthma and work-exacerbated asthma. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2019;11(2):188-200.
Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome and irritant-induced asthma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/reactive-airways-dysfunction-syndrome-and-irritant-induced-asthma. Accessed July 27, 2021.
Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome. Health Navigator New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/health-a-z/r/reactive-airways-dysfunction-syndrome/. Accessed July 27, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dan Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 7/27/2021

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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