What Is a Bronchospasm?


Bronchospasms can occur in individuals of all ages, including young children. A bronchospasm can be caused by various conditions and environmental irritants. Although a bronchospasm is only temporary, it can last long enough to make breathing difficult. Treatment is available to reduce symptoms. However, it is advisable to learn how to prevent a bronchospasm.


  • The air tubes leading from the trachea to the lungs are known as the bronchi. During a bronchospasm, the bronchi constrict abnormally. The lung lining may become inflamed and excess mucus may be produced. The diameter of the airways narrows and breathing becomes difficult.


  • Various types of respiratory conditions can cause bronchospasm, including asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. A severe allergic reaction to an allergen may cause a bronchospasm, especially if anaphylactic shock has occurred. Chemicals and other lung irritants such as smoke and dust may also lead to a bronchospasm in some people. Exercise is another possible cause of a bronchospasm.


  • The main symptom of a bronchospasm is coughing. Increased mucus is produced, which is often thick and sticky. Coughing the mucus out of the lungs can be difficult. The person will have trouble breathing and may wheeze. Some people will also have chest tightness and become anxious. Respiratory rate may increase as the person struggles to get enough air into the lungs.


  • Medication is the most common treatment for a bronchospasm. Medications such as albuterol are classified as bronchodilators and can be given as soon as a bronchospasm starts. They are considered fast-acting medications and usually start working within about ten minutes. Bronchodilators relax the airway muscles and help them open up. The medication can be delivered with a nebulizer or inhaler. Albuterol is also available in a syrup for infants. Steroids may also be given to reduce inflammation--orally, by injection or intravenously.


  • Identifying and reducing allergens that might trigger a bronchospasm may help reduce their frequency. Since asthma is often a cause of bronchospasm, taking medication to prevent asthma flare-ups may help. Inhaled steroids or oral steroids in the form of a pill taken daily may help reduce inflammation, which often occurs with asthma and may lead to bronchospasm. If bronchospasms are caused by exercise, using an inhaler containing a bronchodilator before starting any exercise may work as a preventive measure.

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