Bronchospasm is narrowing of the airways due to a trigger. It is a symptom, not a diagnosis.
Airways to Lungs
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The narrow airway is caused by muscle spasms around the airway. There is also swelling and increased mucus in the airway. It is triggered by allergens, infections, cold air, or chemicals. The triggers vary from person to person.
It is not clear what causes the tissue to overreact. It may be due to environment, genes, and biology.
The risk of bronchospasm is higher in people who have:
- A family history of reactive airway disease or asthma
Jobs with exposure to chemicals, smoke, fumes, or vapors. This may include:
- Fire fighters, police, and other emergency services workers
- Exposure to cigarette smoke
Symptoms of bronchospasm may be:
- Tightness in the chest
- Problems breathing
The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may ask about things that might have triggered symptoms.
Tests may be done to look for allergies, infections, lung problems, or chemical exposures.
The goal is to ease swelling and symptoms. One or more medicines may be used, such as:
- Bronchodilators—to open the airways
- Corticosteroids—to ease inflammation
- Mast cell stabilizers or leukotriene inhibitors—to prevent inflammation
Bronchospasms cannot always be prevented. Finding triggers can stop more events. Triggers can be avoided or managed. Steps will depend on the trigger or allergy.
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Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Dan Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 7/27/2021