Friday Links – Coffee and Breathing, Nose Problems and Severe Asthma

Caffeine to Open Airways
Ever seen this movie Trapped with Charlize Theron and Kevin Bacon?

The little girl in it has severe asthma, and one scene shows her drinking coffee during a bad attack because she doesn’t have an inhaler or nebulizer with her. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the caffeine-as-bronchodilator-in-a-pinch concept before, but this link’s a good article about it.

Nasal Symptoms Indicate More Severe Asthma
Not only do 20-25% of all asthmatics appear to suffer with severe disease – a much higher percentage than anyone thought – but frequent problems with symptoms like sinus pain and nasal blockage appear to up the risk. Meaning if your kid has asthma and has major nose problems, it might be a good idea to raise the possibility of severe asthma with the pediatrician. (Thanks, Sarah.)

Side Effects of Inhaled Corticosteroids
Back when AG and I were new to asthma, her doctor raised the idea of daily Flovent about a year after her diagnosis. I promptly honed in on that word “steroids,” thought about all the terrible side effects athletes experience when they abuse them, said no way, not my kid and basically threw up such a mental block for myself that I didn’t understand the pediatrician was talking about a different kind of steroid.


I wised up eventually and learned the difference between anabolic steroids and inhaled corticosteroids. Check out this primer if you have questions about the (mild) side effects of the inhaled kind.

24 responses to “Friday Links – Coffee and Breathing, Nose Problems and Severe Asthma”

  1. Danielle says:

    In second year I had to do a “mythbusters”-type assignment and my myth was based on that movie clip. According to my calculations (based on two journal articles) it would take 7 cups to have therapeutic effects in an attack. That was a fun project.

    Also, booo to the nasal thing!

  2. Sarah says:

    I’ve heard of the caffeine-as-bronchodialator-in-a-pinch idea, and I honestly, I think it works. Before I got my “rediagnosis” and got onto proper meds, I’d drink a crazy amount of coffee (I’m talking 12+ cups a day) and the funny thing is, once I got my asthma under better control, my coffee intake crashed to a far more normal amount of 2-3 cups a day, through no effort on my part.

    Even now, when I flare, I crave coffee. ‘Course, as a bit of a skeptic, I have to admit that it might just be a placebo effect. Who knows? It’s cheaper than most of the alt-med bunk out there (and at least as effective, since most of them are pure placebo), it’s tasty, and there’s a plausible scientific reasoning behind it, and that’s good enough for me. That said, I’m certainly not about to toss my Ventolin in favor of a cup of coffee! It’s relegated to ‘comfort food’ for flares, now that I know better. :)

    As for the nasal symptoms… yeah. I fall in the “severe chronic rhinosinusitis” category when I’m not on the battery of allergy medication I’m on right now, so next time I see the pulmonologist, I’m going to ask him if he can evaluate my severity.

  3. Elisheva says:

    Mmm… Caffeine. I only started drinking coffee during my BA, and sometimes I can get up to a few cups a day, tho usually one is enough for me. Every so often I consider kicking the caffeine addiction…. but…. meh… I totally justify drinking it because of its bronchodialator effect. Of course that doesn’t make or break asthma control for me. But it’s a good enough excuse.

  4. Sara C. says:

    I’ve been known to drink espresso when I’m tight and don’t have an inhaler around. I also drink espresso when I’ve got a migraine and no medication. Not the best way to treat symptoms…but ok in a pinch.

  5. Amy says:

    I love that you’re all basically saying, “Well, no matter how well it works, it’s a good excuse to drink coffee.” Because that means I have no excuse, and I’m a solid 3-4 cups/day girl. :)

    Actually, I posted that link b/c I’ve kept the caffeine=emergency bronchodilator tip in the back of my head for years without actually knowing whether it works. I think Sara has the right idea with the espresso.

  6. MC says:

    The coffee thing… hehe, I don’t like the taste one bit. However…. I do LOVE green tea, and I had started a habit of drinking at least one cup every day till my doctor told me I had to stop b/c it’s a common reflux trigger. :( I totally loved tea, and used the excuse that it’s supposed to help as a bronchidilator too. :P

    As for the nasal thing… hmmm…. It makes me wonder how much it applies to me. When I have more sinus problems the asthma flares up more, and I’m also more prone to night-time awakenings (even more so when I’m off meds too now… that’s really annoying. I used to never wake up at night). Since my sinus stuff has been more of an issue this fall, I’ve also noticed my lungs have become less stable and that I flare worse. I wonder about the correlation here.

  7. Amy says:

    What I wonder – does the nasal/asthma correlation work in reverse? Because AG used to get sinus infections very easily during her worst years and since her health improved, nothing.

  8. Sara C. says:

    Abby’s lungs and her sinuses seem to be totally linked. In fact, the “asthma flare” that we were treating wasn’t really a flare at all, but a sinus infection. (which is what I thought in the first place…but why listen to the MOM) I think that airway inflammation can throughout the respiratory tract…and perhaps her sinus issues weren’t with mucous, but inflammation…because often inflamed nasal passages and sinuses are confused with mucous filled ones…but they are stuffy, rather than runny and drippy.

  9. Alyson says:

    Caffeine ALWAYS helps my asthma, ALWAYS. It does not replace my ventolin. But during all flares I crave coffee and dark chocolate. During mild flares I can usually get away with coffee and no inhaler. When I am really flaring or ill using caffeine boosts the relief from my other bronchodialators.

  10. Amy says:

    I agree! I have had asthma since I was 5 years old and my mom and I would sit up late at night drinking hot tea to help me breathe a little better so I could sleep. As an adult I really can tell a difference when I drink coffee and tea and I do believe it helps increase the effects of my medications. But during a severe asthma attack I could never even think of drinking anything cuz I am struggling just to breathe! ;-)

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