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Understanding Asthma and Other Health Conditions

Some health problems happen more often in people with asthma. The problems can make asthma symptoms worse. Symptoms can be harder to control. Talk with your healthcare provider about how other health problems might be affecting your asthma. And if you smoke, stop. Smoking makes your asthma and other health problems worse.

Upper respiratory problems

Problems with your nose, sinuses, or throat can make your asthma symptoms worse. These can include a cold, sore throat, and the flu.

You can help to prevent these illnesses by washing your hands often. Also try to stay away from people who are sick. You and others around you should cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. You can also use a hand cleaner that has alcohol in it if you can't wash your hands with soap and water. Many offices and businesses have them available for use. You can also keep small bottles at work, in your car, or in your purse. And get a flu shot every year.

Many people with asthma also have long-term problems with their nose (rhinitis) or sinuses (chronic sinusitis). These problems can give you a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, coughing, or headache. These problems may also make your asthma worse. The symptoms may be from infections or allergies (see Allergies below). Tell your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms. There are medicines and other treatments available.

Other long-term (chronic) problems include COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, and vocal cord dysfunction.

In children, conditions linked to asthma include:

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Breathing in an object that gets stuck in the airways or lungs (foreign object aspiration)

  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia

  • RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)

Talk with your healthcare provider if you were diagnosed with any of these health conditions as an adult or as a child. Ask about available treatments to help manage asthma.


Asthma may be caused by allergies. Your asthma may be caused by things in the environment. Or it can be caused by allergens that you breathe in. The allergens that cause asthma in some people are commonly found indoors. But some are also outdoors. For example, some people are allergic to dust, animals, or insects. The best thing you can do is try to stay away from those things that make your asthma worse. That is not easy. Your healthcare provider may advise allergy testing. This can help you learn what is causing your asthma. Talk with your provider if allergies are found. He or she can help you figure out ways to reduce your contact with your allergens.

Acid reflux

Many people with asthma also have acid reflux. This is also called GERD. GERD occurs when stomach acid backs up. This acid can irritate your airways. The symptoms of GERD may be heartburn, a sour taste, coughing, or a hoarse voice. Symptoms may be worse at night if you have asthma. Your healthcare provider can advise treatment. This may include changes in your diet or medicine.

Being obese

Asthma may be worse in people who are obese. Losing weight is important to help ease your asthma symptoms. It is also a hard thing to do. Your healthcare provider can advise treatment to help you lose weight. Making healthy food choices, exercising every day, and having emotional support from friends and family are important parts of a plan to reach a healthy weight.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a blockage in the airways. It causes trouble breathing during sleep. It's more common in people who are overweight. It is also linked to some serious health problems. It may also be present in people with asthma that is hard to control. You may need tests to see if your symptoms are from asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, or both.

Stress and depression

Stress and depression can both make asthma harder to manage. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are having trouble dealing with stress. Also talk with your provider if you are having symptoms of depression. You can’t get rid of all stress. But you can learn to manage it better. And treatment works well for depression. You may need counseling or medicines.

Online Medical Reviewer: Alan J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.