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Alcohol - good or bad for Asthmatics?
A considerable amount of contradictory evidence has accumulated on the issue of whether the consumption of alcoholic drinks is likely to encourage or suppress the symptoms of asthma in susceptible individuals. Doctors working at Baltimore Hospital where asthmatics are admitted as emergency cases, have now evaluated a wide variety of reports on different aspect of the question. They conclude that doctors should counsel patients (especially Asians) to avoid alcoholic drinks. They also point out that alcohol itself may afford relief in asthma and that it is so well attested that there is a possibility that alcohol may be used in the future to treat patients who do not respond to conventional drugs.

Asthma (chronic lung disease) which can happen vary rapidly, in response to triggers ranging from emotion and exercise to air pollutants, causes wheezing, coughing and difficulty in breathing, as the air ways become inflamed and narrowed. Does alcohol, or indeed other constituents of alcoholic drinks affect the process?

Alcoholic drinks have been used since ancient times to relieve asthma and other respiratory conditions and indeed, modern reset has shown that alcohol can help to dilate the airways that become restricted during an asthma attack. Several studies have clearly demonstrated that moderate doses of alcohol given to asthmatic persons dilate the airways and thus facilitate breathing.

Some experiments have suggested that alcohol can help asthma suffers by reducing the sensitivity of the airways to substances in the environment which would otherwise trigger an attack. Over time it may be possible to alter the immune system in such a way that it does not "over-react" to such environmental triggers.

A possible reason for the divergence of evidence is that while alcohol per se probably has a positive therapeutic effect on asthma, other constituents of alcoholic beverages work as an allergen and can provoke or worsen an attack. The authors of this review therefore advise patients not to drink in an attempt to alleviate asthmatic symptoms, this being especially true for Asians where most of the adverse consequences were seen.

Source.The role of alcohol in Asthma: A review of Clinical and Experimental studies, American journal of emergency medicine (2001), 19, 501-503, Cuddy R., Guohua L ., Department of emergency Medicine, The Johns Hopkins school of Medicine, and hospital..
All text and images © 2003 Alcohol In Moderation.