Objective: The present study implements an experimental paradigm to examine airway reactivity to stress in children with asthma and controls.
Method: 114 children with asthma and 30 controls (ages 9-15) participated. The protocol involved 5 min of baseline physiological measurements followed by a 5-min stressful task. Skin conductance (EDG), skin temperature, and heart rate were measured continuously. Airway resistance was measured at baseline and after the task.
Results: 110 children (76% of the sample) were significantly "stressed" as shown by physiological changes. Asthmatics and controls differed on overall airway resistance, F(1, 108)=12.3, P<.001. The entire sample demonstrated a trend toward increased airway resistance in response to stress, F(1,108)=3.1, P<. 08. A portion of asthmatics (22%) had increases of greater than 20% of baseline airway resistance. Changes in airway resistance in response to stress were unrelated to asthma severity, F(2,78)=2.0, ns.
Conclusion: Children with asthma and controls demonstrate variation in airway function in response to stress, although increases are likely more meaningful for children with asthma. Further research is needed to examine the mechanisms underlying this response.