Bronchospasm is a reversible narrowing of the airways in response to a stimulus. Bronchospasm is not a diagnosis.
Reactive airway disease is a term that may be used for a one-time event or until a more specific diagnosis can be made. If the condition lasts more than 6 months, it may be called asthma.
Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome is used to define a chronic disease of bronchospasm after exposure to high levels of an irritating chemicals.
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Bronchospasm symptoms is caused by an increased sensitivity of the airways to certain triggers, such as allergens, cold air, or chemicals. These triggers cause tightening of the muscles around the airway. At the same time, the lining of the airways swell and produce excess mucus. All of these reactions narrow the airways and make it difficult to breathe.
It is not clear what causes the tissue to overreact. It may be caused by a combination of factors including environment, genetics, and biology.
Factors that may increase your chance of bronchospasm include:
Bronchospasm may result in:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may ask about possible triggers that were around when you developed symptoms.
Further testing may be done to look for the presence of allergies or other pulmonary issues. Tests may be done to look for pneumonia, viral infection, smoke inhalation, chemical exposure, or emphysema.
Treatment options include:
Medications may be used to prevent symptoms or treat a flare up. Options include:
Some of these medications may be delivered with an inhaler or a machine that makes a medicated mist.
Keep a journal of flare ups and what was happening when they occurred. This may help you discover your triggers. When you know your triggers, take steps to avoid them.
Steps that may help you prevent future flare-ups include:
Learn the early warning signs of a flare-up. This will allow you to treat the condition before it worsens. These signs may include wheezing, shortness of breath, and dry cough.
There is no known way to prevent bronchospasm.
American Academy of Asthma & Immunology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The Asthma Society of Canada
Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome. Health Navigator New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/health-a-z/r/reactive-airways-dysfunction-syndrome/. Updated August 23, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2017.
Asthma in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114449/Asthma-in-adults-and-adolescents. Updated February 22, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2017.
Brooks S. Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome and considerations of irritant-induced Asthma. J Occup Environ Med. 2013 Sep;55(9):1118-20.
Chronic cough in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T146529/Chronic-cough-in-adults. Updated February 22, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 8/28/2017