As far as our general health and wellness is concerned, in order to ensure we remain as fit and healthy as we possibly can, it’s important that we take care of ourselves on the inside, as well as on the outside.
With more and more people suffering from breathing disorders and difficulties every single day, it’s important that we understand how some common, yet avoidable, breathing-related conditions work.
In today’s article we’re going to be looking at Bronchospasms and Asthma, placing more of an emphasis on Bronchospasms today.
Below you’ll find a detailed breakdown on what Bronchospasms actually are, what causes the condition, symptoms, natural treatments, and how they differ from Asthma.
So, if you’re ready, we’ll now learn more about Bronchospasms and Asthma…
In This Article ...
What are Bronchospasms?
A bronchospasm is described as being a tightening of the muscles which line the bronchi (the airways) in the lungs. As dramatic as this sounds, the good news is that the condition is very preventable and treatable.
You see, as your muscles become tense and tighten, this results in the airways becoming narrower, and breathing is therefore restricted. Subsequently this means that you will be unable to allow as much air inside, and outside, of your lungs.
Because of this, there is a limited supply of oxygen which can make its way into your bloodstream and be absorbed by the red blood cells. It also means that you cannot expel as much CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) from your blood.
Once a bronchospasm occurs, typically you will find that airflow is reduced by at least 15%, if not more. Statistically, it is individuals that suffer with allergies, or who already have asthma, who are at the highest risk of suffering from a bronchospasm.
Young children, and people aged 65 or over, also have a higher risk of developing the condition.
Symptoms of Bronchospasm
Now that we’ve looked at what Bronchospasms are, it’s now time to take a look at some of the more common symptoms associated with the condition.
Symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:
Difficulty breathing – The first symptom of a bronchospasm should come as no surprise to you. As mentioned, bronchospasms cause the airways to become constricted and to tighten, which in turn means we can breathe in less air.
This subsequently results in difficulty breathing and a shortness of breath. More often than not, breathing difficulty rates are mild, though in some cases they can be severe, which can then result in panic setting in, which only serves to exasperate the condition further.
Some individuals will also experience irritation to the airways, which can cause a tickly and persistent cough. As annoying as the cough can be, it can also increase pain and/or discomfort in the chest, which is obviously very detrimental.
Chest tightness or pain – Another very common symptom of a bronchospasm is chest tightness, or chest pain in general. Again, the exact amount of pain or tightness you experience will depend on the severity of the bronchospasm itself.
Some people experience mild tightness, while others experience so much pain and tightness that it can result in them worrying they may be suffering a heart attack. More often than not, the pain is intensified during the inhalation of air, as the lungs expand.
If you experience any chest pain or tightness, you should ALWAYS seek medical attention right away, to ensure that you aren’t suffering a heart attack or experiencing cardiovascular issues.
Wheezing – When healthy individuals breathe in, as they inhale air, it flows freely into the lungs. If a person is suffering from bronchospasms however, the air will struggle to make its way into the lungs because there is less room for it to travel because the airways are so narrow.
If you imagine a busy 8-lane freeway, merging into a 2-lane freeway, with the vehicles representing the air you breathe, that’s pretty much what happens when you suffer a bronchospasm.
Because the air is fighting so hard to squeeze its way through the narrowed airways, it can cause a raspy, wheezing sound. Normally this wheezing is fairly loud during the inhalation process, and can often be heard by other people in close proximity to the suffering individual.
[Also Read: Can asthma cause snoring?]
What Causes Bronchospasm?
Now it’s time for us to take a look at causes of bronchospasms. As previously mentioned, people that happen to suffer with allergies are often more susceptible to bronchospasms, though asthma can also induce the condition.
What’s more, studies have also found that swelling as well as irritation to the airways, can also bring on a bronchospasm. There are however, a number of causes to be wary of, many of which can thankfully be cut out to help with preventative measures.
Common Bronchospasm causes include:
- Allergens such as pet hair (dander) and dust
- Fumes from chemicals
- Chronic bronchitis
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder)
- Smoke inhalation
- Air pollution
- Lung infections
- Cold temperatures
- Artificial food additives
- Blood thinning medications
Currently, experts are carrying out a series of tests and studies into common smoking alternatives such as E-cigarettes and vaping devices, to determine whether they too can bring on the condition.
You see, it has been established that nicotine does indeed stimulate nerves located in the lungs, which in turn results in the muscles tensing up and becoming tighter, resulting in bronchospasms.
As vaping devices and electronic-cigarettes are designed to help people quit smoking, the vapour breathed in does contain nicotine, so there is a chance that it could result in bronchospasms.
Research however, is still ongoing, so we cannot say for certain whether these devices do or do not, cause bronchospasms to occur.
[Also Read: Can food allergies cause asthma?]
Bronchospasm Vs Asthma: What Is The Difference?
So, we’ve established that bronchospasms are not the same as asthma, and that people with asthma are more likely to suffer with bronchospasms, but how do the two conditions differ?
Well, asthma is a condition which actually does not cause an individual any problems when breathing in, but rather when they happen to be breathing out.
It affects the airways of a person’s lungs, and causes trouble breathing, and wheezing, though chest tightness, and sometimes coughing, are also common symptoms to watch out for.
Asthma typically results in inflammation of the lungs, or rather, of the airways of the lungs. It also results in the airways becoming extremely sensitive and swollen.
So, as you can see, although the two conditions are very similar, asthma is commonly associated with difficulty breathing out.
Bronchospasms however, cause the patient trouble when breathing in. Acute bronchospasms brought on by asthma however, can actually result in an asthma attack.
How To Treat Bronchospasm Naturally At Home?
Before we wrap things up for the day, we’ll finish off by looking at a few natural treatments and preventative measures for bronchospasms.
Some popular, tried and tested measures include:
Practice breathing techniques – If you ever suffer from a bronchospasm, one of the best things you can do is try to focus, relax, and control your breathing. This is where it pays to practice certain breathing techniques.
When breathing in, we actually want to allow more CO2 to pass through the airways, as it has vasodilating effects.
Here you should practice taking in short, shallow breaths, coupled with nasal breathing to help prevent further symptoms and to shorten the bronchospasm episode.
Steam inhalation – If you are suffering from congestion and trouble breathing, steam is useful.
You can either make yourself a steam bowl by placing a bowl over your head, placing your head over a bowl of boiling water, and inhaling the steam. Adding a few drops of Eucalyptus oil, which has anti-congestion properties, is also useful.
Alternatively, you could visit a steam room and take a steam bath. Just remember that a steam room is not the same as a sauna, as the air in a sauna is very dry, and would likely make your bronchospasms worse.
Coffee – If you enjoy a cup of coffee in a morning then you’re in luck. Coffee contains theophylline and theobromine, both of which help to open up the airways and allow more oxygen to be taken in.
Due to the stimulating effects of the caffeine in the coffee, blood flow and circulation will also be temporarily increased.
Stop smoking – If you are a smoker, amongst the many dangers associated with smoking, one of which is the fact that smoking can bring on bronchospasms.
Yet another reason to quite smoking, then, is to help treat and prevent bronchospasms from taking place in the near future.
Turmeric – Turmeric is the latest health supplement to take the world by storm, and for good reason. Turmeric contains an active compound known as curcumin.
Curcumin provides a number of health benefits for the human body, including anti-inflammatory properties.
As turmeric functions as a potent anti-inflammatory, it can help to fight and prevent inflammation in the lungs and airways, allowing more oxygen to pass in, and more CO2 to be expelled.