Stress and Asthma
Sandberg, S. (2010)
Stress-Asthma Relationship in Children
Lecture given at conference of the “International Association for the Study of Attachment (IASA), St John’s College, Cambridge, August 2010
- Asthma is the commonest chronic childhood disease, affecting 11-14% of school-age children in Western Europe. It is caused by an inappropriate response of immune system cells called helper T-cells to proteins in the environment (allergens).
- Both acute and chronic stress also affects these helper T-cells and thus the immune system responses.
- Several studies have shown that babies and children who are already at a high genetic risk of contracting asthma (and other allergic conditions such as eczema) are more likely to do so if they are affected by stress.
- No definite mechanism for stress increasing asthma risk is known for certain but it may involve the effect of the stress hormone, cortisol, on the developing immune system or non-genetic changes in gene expression.