A little known fact is that some viruses cause asthmatic symptoms in patients. If you already suffer from chronic asthma, the common cold can be anything but easy to cope with. The flu itself can consequently develop asthma symptoms in otherwise healthy people, as well as triggering attacks in habitual sufferers. Estimates predict that as much as 40% of all asthmatic exacerbation is caused by a virus.
Viral-induced asthma is usually due to the rhinovirus (common cold) and influenza (flu), as they often enhance any bronchospasm (narrowing of the airways). 80% of children who’ve been admitted to hospitals because of excessive wheezing find themselves in this position due to viral infections; mostly the common cold.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Respiratory infections are particularly dangerous for children and RSV causes breathing difficulties in children under 2 years-old. This sensitivity in the lungs and throat often lingers, making it more likely that a child will suffer from asthmatic symptoms until they’re six years-old. In adults, airways generally won’t return to normal until four months after RSV.
Viral infections operate on a seasonal basis, so you can expect higher cases of rhinovirus in late fall, influenza in late winter, and RSV between January and February. So be on your guard when the weather turns cold and try to be more careful about your health at these times of year (easier said than done, however).
Why Do Viruses Cause Asthma?
When a virus attacks, the body’s immune system goes wild. An inflammatory reaction can cause swelling and sensitivity in the airway cells, as well as heavy mucus production. Doctors aren’t sure if viruses directly attack the airway system or if the swelling is entirely down to the infected cells, but the symptoms can become similar to asthma in some adults and children.
How To Diagnose Viral-Induced Asthma
Anyone with breathing problems should have a peak flow meter, even if it’s quite obvious that their respiratory health is degrading due to an illness. A peak flow meter simply measures how well your lungs are operating. If you see a dramatic decrease in your peak flow numbers, it’s advisable to you call your doctor, as you may need medical attention.
Many doctors can diagnose viral-induced asthma, purely by listening to the lungs. Although there’s no truly effective way to treat common viruses, the best way to avoid trouble is conscientious prevention around those seasons where you’re vulnerable to asthmatic symptoms.
Every chronic asthma sufferer should receive a flu shot each year, wash their hands regularly, and have minimum contact with ill people to prevent infection. A doctor may recommend unlicensed specials that can ease symptoms.
During a serious asthma attack, bronchodilators (a medicine to open the airways) or steroids can help patients. Steroid inhalers work well for non-asthmatic adults that suffer from viral-induced asthma. However, even without treatment, symptoms dissipate over 8 weeks or less, so generally the attacks are not serious. Severe sufferers though may need oral steroids to protect their health.