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Can Caffeine Cause Asthma Attack

Sinusitis And Other Upper Respiratory Infections

Can Coffee Help With An Asthma Attack?

Much like asthma causes inflammation in the lining of your airways, sinusitis causes inflammation in the mucus membranes that line your sinuses. This makes the membranes put out more mucus. If you have asthma and your sinuses get inflamed, your airways may too. Prompt treatment of a sinus infection can relieve asthma symptoms.

How Long Do Asthma Attacks Last

There is no set time for how long an asthma attack lasts. As a guideline, you might only have a mild asthma attack for a matter of minutes before you manage to get your symptoms under control and they begin to ease off.

If you have severe asthma, an asthma attack can last longer, from hours to days. Severe asthma is harder to get under control and often doesnt respond in the same way to medications as mild asthma. A severe asthma attack is a medical emergency and you need to call for help for emergency help straight away.

Risk Of Bias In Included Studies

Complete agreement was reached by the review authors for both assessments. See for ‘Risk of bias’ tables for individual studies and for an overview.

‘Risk of bias’ summary: review authors’ judgements about each risk of bias item for each included study.


All the papers stated that the trials were randomised. One trial reported computerised sequence generation which was judged to have a low risk of bias , while the remaining six trials were unclear. Two trials reported adequate allocation concealment while the remaining five were unclear.


All the studies were described as doubleblind. Blinding of the patient is important so that they put the same effort into lung function testing regardless of intervention, however they would presumably be able to detect if they had ingested any caffeine due to side effects. Five studies were judged to have a low risk of bias with respect to blinding . None of the papers described blinding of the investigator administering the caffeine or placebo to the patient or the investigator taking the outcome readings.

Incomplete outcome data

Since the trials took place over relatively short time frames there were few dropouts and only one missing data point throughout all the studies. All trials were judged to be of low risk of bias with respect to dealing with incomplete data.

Other potential sources of bias

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Caffeinated Tea Or Coffee

The caffeine in black or green tea and coffee is believed to help treat asthma. It works similarly to the popular asthma medication theophylline, which opens up the airways.

A 2010 research review, the most recent available, found that caffeine may slightly improve breathing function in people with asthma for up to 4hours.

Still, there isnt enough evidence to show whether caffeine can improve asthma symptoms.

How Does A Normal Amount Of Coffee Affect Lung Function

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A recent study tested the effect of a normal amount of coffee.1 The study had 14 participants with mild to moderate asthma and good lung function. A normal amount is about two cups per day , which has about 200 mg of caffeine.3 Each participant drank 16 ounces of caffeinated coffee and 16 ounces of decaffeinated coffee on separate occasions. The results showed that a normal amount of caffeine did not improve lung function, reduce airway inflammation, or reduce airway sensitivity.

An older review paper came to a different conclusion. The authors of this paper looked at seven small trials to see how caffeine affects lung function.4 Their results showed that low doses of caffeine can improve airway function for up to four hours.4 However, it is important to note that the purpose of this study was to see if people should avoid taking caffeine before lung function tests. It was not a study to see if caffeine can be used to treat asthma symptoms.4 The authors suggested that a much higher amount of caffeine might be needed to improve asthma symptoms. High levels of caffeine can cause symptoms such as shakiness, jitters, difficulty sleeping, headaches, dizziness, fast heart rate, and dehydration.5

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Identify And Avoid Your Triggers

It’s important to identify possible asthma triggers by making a note of where you are and what you’re doing when your symptoms get worse.

Some triggers can be hard to avoid, but it may be possible to avoid some, such as dust mites, pet fur and some medicines.

You’ll have regular contact with your doctor or asthma nurse to monitor your condition.

These appointments may involve:

  • talking about your symptoms for example, if they’re affecting your normal activities or are getting worse
  • a discussion about your medicines including if you think you might be experiencing any side effects and if you need to be reminded how to use your inhaler
  • breathing tests

It’s also a good chance to ask any questions you have or raise any other issues you want to discuss.

You may be asked to help monitor your condition between appointments. For example, you may be advised to check your peak flow if you think your symptoms may be getting worse.

Your personal action plan should say what to do if your symptoms get gradually or suddenly worse. Contact your doctor or asthma nurse if you’re not sure what to do.

What Other Drugs Will Affect Green Tea

Other drugs may interact with green tea, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

Do not take green tea without medical advice if you are using any of the following medications:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with green tea, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this product guide.

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Tips From Other People With Asthma

If your asthma is keeping you awake at night, youre not alone.

In our recent sleep survey, 45% of people told us they have difficulty sleeping because of their asthma at least once a week, and nearly 50% said theyd had an asthma attack at night.

Here are some of the things that people tell us help them get a good nights sleep, which our nurses agree might be helpful:

  • Ease a dry throat with a glass of water
  • Try a nasal saline rinse or use decongestants to unblock a stuffy nose
  • Take regular exercise
  • Relax in the evening using mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises or yoga
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.

If you find reading about other peoples experiences useful, or have some advice to share, join the conversations on our HealthUnlocked forum.

Is your child disturbed by symptoms at night? Read our advice on asthma and your childs sleep.

The Worst And Best Caffeinated Drinks If You Have Anxiety

An asthma attack

Not all sources of caffeine are equally beneficial or detrimental.

Soft drinks contain synthetic caffeine, loads of sugar, and have no nutritive value.

Energy drinks are no better even though they may contain some added herbs or vitamins.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition has concluded that any performance enhancement from energy drinks comes from caffeine and sugar, NOT from these added nutrients.

Traditional caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and yerba mate contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytonutrients that offer major health benefits and actually build a better, healthier brain.

If youd like to continue to drink some caffeine to stay alert and productive, theres no better drink than green tea.

Green tea will help you stay simultaneously calm and focused due to two unique compounds, EGCG and l-theanine.

EGCG is a potent antioxidant that can improve your mood and make you more resilient to stress by moderating brainwave activity and increasing the calming neurotransmitter GABA.

One study found EGCG to be as effective at relieving anxiety as the anti-anxiety medication benzodiazepine.

L-theanine is a relaxing amino acid that causes an increase in alpha brainwave activity, putting you in a state similar to that experienced during meditation.

The caffeine, EGCG, and theanine in green tea work together to induce a desirable state of calm alertness.

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Can Caffeine Be Harmful For People With Asthma

Caffeine should not be used in place of medications to treat worsening asthma symptoms. This can delay treatment and have serious consequences. High doses of caffeine can increase the side effects of theophylline.8 Avoid consuming large quantities of coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate if you are taking theophylline. Caffeine can make GERD worse, which may lead to more nighttime asthma symptoms.

What To Do When Asthma Stops You Sleeping

  • If you have asthma symptoms, sit up and take your reliever inhaler as prescribed.
  • Always make sure your inhaler is beside your bed before you go to sleep, so you dont have to search for it in the middle of the night.
  • Give yourself a bit of time to check your reliever medicine has dealt with your symptoms before you go back to sleep, says Dr Andy Whittamore. This is better than falling asleep straight away only to wake up soon after with asthma symptoms because your reliever didnt help enough.
  • Some people find propping themselves up with extra pillows helps as it keeps the airways open.

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What Makes Asthma Medications Work

There are two main types of asthma medications, which are long-term asthma control medications and quick-relief medications.

The long-term medications are typically taken once or twice day-to-day. The purpose of these is to prevent the muscles around the airways from becoming inflamed.

Quick-relief medication, or rescue inhalers, are medications that are inhaled and start working right away. They help open up the airways after theyve become constricted. This type of asthma medication is typically used on an as-needed basis. They are often used for exercise-induced asthma.

These inhaled asthma medications go directly into the lungs, which is where the problem lies. Once the medication is inhaled, it begins to relax the muscles and open up the airways. This allows more air to pass through into the lungs.

Corticosteroids are common drugs found in asthma medications. This is an anti-inflammatory agent. Meaning, it works by reducing the swelling in the airways.

Bronchodilators, another common form of asthma medication, work in a similar way. The primary function of bronchodilators is to relax the muscles in the lungs. This allows the airways to expand, allowing for increased airflow and easier breathing.

Theophylline is a popular bronchodilator used to treat asthma. It is often prescribed to either prevent or treat wheezing and chest pain associated with asthma and chronic bronchitis.

You May Have Caffeine Sensitivity

Asthma Attack And Caffeine

We all know people who can drink a pot of coffee after dinner and sleep like a rock.

If you have anxiety, you probably arent one of them.

The difference may be in your genes.

Scientists from Harvard School of Public Health have found several genes that directly influence how your body metabolizes caffeine.

You may be sensitive to caffeine because you take longer than average to metabolize it.

The average half-life of caffeine is 5-6 hours, but everyone is different and the time it can take to eliminate caffeine varies widely.

It can take as little as two to as many as ten hours after ingestion to metabolize half of it.

And there are other reasons you may be sensitive to caffeine.

Caffeine sensitivity increases with age, so you might not be able to drink caffeine like you used to.

Men metabolize caffeine more slowly than most women, the exceptions being women who are pregnant or taking birth control pills.

Caffeine sensitivity can be caused by an allergic reaction to caffeine, although true caffeine allergy is rare.

More common is an allergy to mycotoxins, toxins produced by fungi and mold, that are found in coffee.

You may be taking medications that increase the side effects of caffeine.

So do some healthy foods such as broccoli and some herbal teas.

Impaired ability to process caffeine is not unusual in people with liver disease, especially cirrhosis.

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Search Methods For Identification Of Studies

Electronic searches

We identified trials using the Cochrane Airways Group Specialised Register of trials , which is derived from systematic searches of bibliographic databases including the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials , MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, AMED and PsycINFO, and handsearching of respiratory journals and meeting abstracts . We searched all records in the Specialised Register coded as ‘asthma’ using the following terms:

caffeine* or *caffeine or coffee or tea or chocolate or cola.

We did not exclude trials on the basis of language. We searched the CAGR up to August 2011.

Searching other resources

We reviewed reference lists of all primary studies and review articles for additional references.

We contacted authors of identified trials and asked them to identify other published and unpublished studies.

Allergies Can Cause Asthma

Allergies with asthma is a common problem. Eighty percent of people with asthma have allergies to things in the air, like tree, grass, and weed pollens mold animal dander dust mites and cockroach droppings. In one study, children with high levels of cockroach droppings in their homes were four times more likely to have childhood asthma than children with low levels. An allergy to dust mites is another common asthma trigger.

If you have asthma thatâs hard to control, see an allergist to find out if you have allergies. Treating your allergies with medication and avoiding your triggers can help lower the odds of a severe asthma attack.

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How To Help Someone With An Asthma Attack Without An Inhaler

Asthma is a very common condition with around one in 13 of us affected. Itâs been increasing since the 1980s and affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Thereâs currently no cure for asthma, but typically with the right treatment plan and lifestyle changes, most people diagnosed with asthma are able to live normally without severe symptoms.

However, very occasionally, a person with asthma may be caught off guard. They might find themselves facing an attack without an inhaler to help them. Fortunately, this doesnât need to be as bad as it might sound. With the right assistance, they could get through an attack using some simple coping techniques.

If you know someone with asthma, learning more about their condition, as well as what you can do to help them, can be valuable.

A Primer On The Immune System

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The immune system is composed of white blood cells, which are then differentiated into five different type of immune cells. One of those is a group of cells called lymphocytes.

Lymphocytes are then broken down even further into B cells, as well as T cells, which have their own subset of cells called T helper cells, T regulatory cells, cytotoxic T cells and T suppressor cells.

The immune system can be confusing, so rather than describe these cells in detail, Ill use a real life example of how it works.

Lets say you cut yourself with a dirty knife. Bacteria penetrate your skin, engaging a first line of defense from our immune system called a macrophage .

Macrophages are like big, fat security guards wielding tiny billy clubs â ineffective, but theyll slow an invader down while they call on more sophisticated security guards.

When confronted with an invader, macrophages call on their friends, the T helper cells. The T helper cells tell the entire immune system through a series of chemical signals that there has been an invader that has crossed the barrier.

Specifically, the T helper cells call directly on two types of cells, cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells, both soldiers with muscle that live up to their name and help attack and kill the bacterial invaders.

Once the bacteria have been killed, it is time for the immune system to call off the attack, which is the job of the T suppressor cells, who suppress the fight.

But heres what you really need to know:

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Can I Use Decaf Coffee Or Tea For An Asthma Emergency

The term decaf coffee is a bit of a misnomer. Studies have found that decaf coffee often does contain a small amount of caffeine. Some decaf teas may also contain trace amounts of caffeine. However, this is likely less than 15 milligrams of caffeine. And when we are talking about treating an asthma emergency with coffee or tea, we are really thinking about caffeine. While drinking a cup of decaf tea or coffee probably wont hurt you, it isnt likely to provide much relief, if any. So, as always, make sure to carry your quick-relief inhaler with you at all times.

For coffee lovers, research about coffee and asthma is good news! Moderate amounts of coffee are safe for people living with asthma. And, coffee may actually even be a little good for your asthma.

Remember, coffee or caffeine should never replace your asthma medications. But most people can sip on a delicious cup of coffee without worrying that it will make their asthma worse.

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What Triggers Asthma Attacks

When you experience an asthma attack, your airways narrow and it gets more difficult to breathe. An asthma attack can come on slowly and gradually, for example, if your usual symptoms arent so well controlled or if youve not been using your preventer inhaler as regularly as you should be. If youve got an upper airway infection then this can also trigger an asthma attack.

Other factors that can trigger asthma attacks include a sudden change in the temperature and cold weather, environmental factors, allergens and even stress or certain foods and drinks.

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