Mom's 'Chill Pill' Could Also Alleviate Kid's Asthma

Stress in mothers shown to elevate children's asthma

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

Having a bad day? It’s best to let it slide – especially if your child has asthma.

A new study from the Kyushu University Institute of Health Science in Fukuoka, Japan, indicates mothers who are often angered or irritated or who suppress emotional expressions can make their children’s asthma symptoms worse.

“A mother's stress (or wellbeing) may be verbally or non-verbally conveyed to her child, and affect the child's asthmatic status via a psycho-physiological pathway,” said Jun Nagano, who led the study.

Asthma causes temporary constriction of the airways, specifically the bronchi, leading to obstruction of airflow and breathing difficulty, according to Joseph V. Madia, MD.

“The most common presenting symptoms are referred to as an asthma attack, which is the sudden onset of wheezing, gasping for breath and chest tightness,” Madia said. Coughing may also be present. 

The Japanese study correlating stress levels in mothers and kids’ asthma symptoms appears in BioMed Central's open access journal, BioPsychoSocial Medicine. The study followed 223 mothers with 2- to 12-year-old children for an entire year.

Mom’s stress levels played an even larger role if the children were younger than 7. Mothers who were chronically angry or irritated appeared to worsen their children’s asthma symptoms the following year, while mothers who were overprotective to the point of interference in the kids’ lives were shown to worsen asthma symptoms in children aged 7 and over.

“Our results suggest that the mothers of younger children may be advised not to worry about falling into 'unfavorable' parenting styles, but to pay more attention to the reduction of their own stress,” said Nagano.

In addition to Mom’s “chill pill,” another medication that might help kids’ asthma is antibiotics. (Yes, that reads “antibiotics.” Your eyes aren’t fooling you.)  Research has shown that treatable bacterial infections – just like untreatable viral infections – can cause asthma attacks in kids.

"The findings open up an entirely new method for treating severe asthma attacks (with antibiotics),” said Hans Bisgaard, a professor of pediatrics at the Danish Pediatric Asthma Centre (DPAC), who helped lead the study. 

Bacterial infections and moms’ stress levels aside, don’t forget there are other culprits shown to increase asthma symptoms in children, including weight and imbalanced metabolism. Children who eat a poor diet and lack exercise are more likely to have an imbalanced metabolism, which can contribute to development of the chronic inflammatory lung disease, according to a recent study in American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Review Date: 
October 11, 2010