Background. Children with asthma are vulnerable to negative
emotions, but clinical observations
and research suggest that negative emotions can also be precipitants of
asthma attacks. Empirical data provided mixed results. The hypothesis was
tested that negative
emotions influence subjective
rather than objective symptoms of asthma, breathlessness and airways obstruction,
Methods. Forty asthmatic children (aged 7 to 18 years) were
randomly assigned to one of four
experimental conditions: 1, viewing an emotional film of 10 min; 2, performing
physical exercise of modest intensity up to a heartbeat of 170 b/min;
combination of conditions,
order conditions, 1+2; and 4, combination of conditions, order conditions
2+1. Lung function,
breathlessness and state anxiety were measured pre-test and post-test.
Respiration sounds were
recorded continuously for assessment of emotional breathing patterns.
Results. The data and responses to exit questions, confirmed
a successful induction of anxiety via
increased state anxiety and respiratory rate. Viewing the emotional film
did not by itself enhance airways obstruction or breathlessness. Airways
breathlessness increased significantly after exercise only. Significantly
more breathlessness was reported when negative emotions
preceded exercise. Breathlessness was statistically independent of lung
function, severity of asthma, symptoms in the past 4 weeks, anxiety or
Conclusion. Negative emotions affect subjective, rather than
objective symptoms of childhood
asthma. It was suggested that children in a negative emotional state,
uncertain about the condition
of their airways, are inclined to interpret exercise-related general sensations
pounding, sighing) in line with expectations as symptoms of airways obstruction.
they may report relatively high breathlessness, irrespective of actual
objective symptoms of asthma.