Is that right? Facebook triggers asthma attacks?
And now this: Apparently using Facebook can trigger asthma attacks.
A commentary published this morning in the British medical journal The Lancet reports on the case of a young Italian man whose asthma acted up one summer, a season during which his condition was normally well under control.
Seems the poor guy had been ditched by his girlfriend, who had also "unfriended" him on Facebook. Not only that, she had "friended" a number of other young men. Our guy managed to become her "friend" again under a new user name and thus was able to do what my kids call "stalking," that is, scouring his ex-girlfriend's Facebook page for photos of her and her new male friends. When he saw the young lady's photograph there, he hyperventilated, and asthma attacks ensued.
The young man's doctor asked the young man's worried mom to measure his "peak expiratory flow" -- a measure of how well a person can exhale -- before and after he visited Facebook. Sure enough, his breathing was restricted severely upon logging on to the site. His doctors systematically ruled out other possible physical and environmental triggers.
Alas, the solution was at once simple and painful: After consulting with a psychiatrist, the young man agreed to stop using Facebook. And, yes, when he did, his asthma attacks stopped.
If this all sounds a bit Shakespearean to you, note that there's a take-home message: Because stress is well known to exacerbate asthma, especially among people who are depressed, and as Facebook can be a source of social and emotional stress for so many, doctors treating people with asthma should be aware of Facebook's (and other social networks') potential role in triggering asthma attacks.
Do any unusual things seem to trigger your asthma? What are they, and what do you do about them?
Jennifer LaRue Huget
| November 19, 2010; 12:07 AM ET
Categories: Asthma, Mental Health, Social Media, Teens
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