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Caffeine Helps Open Airways

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Q. Is it true that coffee can help an asthma attack if you don't have your medicine handy?

A. Caffeine acts somewhat like a traditional asthma medicine (theophylline). A review of the scientific literature says that caffeine modestly improves airway function for up to four hours (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2001, No. 4).

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11 Comments

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Hot coffee, drunk slowly, does open airways in a few minutes. Green tea has the same effect but takes longer. How does caffeine and theophylline achieve this? Does it relieve smooth muscle contraction or short-circuit the inflammatory response?

Somewhere I heard that caffeine is a natural anti-histamine. In Texas where there I experienced a lot of allergies, a hot cup of coffee cleared my upper respiratory system within minutes.

It's harder to breathe when laying down. Though I do have bad asthma often, at times my asthma will be so light I won't even notice I'm having a problem until I try to lay down to sleep. If I take anything with caffeine, I'll be up all night.

Any ideas for something to take at night, without caffeine?

As a School Nurse I have given children Mello Yello or Mountain Dew when they were having an asthma attack and no inhaler at school. It eased breathing difficulties until parent could get to school with an inhaler.

My son has been having problem sleeping at night . He has been waking with an awful cough and so I decided to give him some green tea or a small amount of Pepsi before bed and he sleeps through the night!!!! CRAZY

Not crazy at all, it's the caffeine that's helping the breathing problem. The problem is, caffeine typically keeps you up, not puts you to sleep, so stick with a small amount.

I can't stop drinking coffee or my asthma returns. I take no inhalers because I can't stand the side effects and have controlled my wheezing by drinking coffee for over 20 years.

I ran this morning and and was having trouble breathing and felt tightness in my chest. I took 2 puffs of my expired inhaler because it was all I had. It did not help. I just drank about 10 oz. of coffee and I feel so much better. I am going to my Dr. to get a new prescription of albuterol though.

This really worked!
I have asthma and had a bad cough with a cold and I had trouble sleeping at my friend's house with no asthma puffer, so this was a relief, Thank you

Woke up about 45 minutes ago and started coughing. I do have the flu, but I also have asthma. I'm awake a lot due to the wheezing and coughing. Dr gave me meds, but they don't help very much. I will try the coffee.....I've got nothing to lose! Thanks for the info everyone.

Still, if you REALLY have a problem, then inhalers are good, and Advair is terrific for long term (daily) use. You don't want to use inhalers for daily use. For an emergency inhaler if you don't have a prescription one, you can go to any pharmacy including Walmart, and get Bronchaid Mist over the counter. It tastes terrible when inhaled, but it works.

People's Pharmacy response: If you need an inhaler, you should talk with your doctor about this and make a plan for emergencies.

You may also be interested in a new book, A Cure for Asthma? What Your Doctor Isn't Telling You--and Why, by Dr. David Hahn. We published it.

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