PHILADELPHIA (July 22, 2014) New research from the Monell Center reveals that simply believing that an odor is potentially harmful can increase airway inflammation in asthmatics for at least 24 hours following exposure. The findings highlight the role that expectations can play in health-related outcomes.
"Asthmatics often are anxious about scents and fragrances. When we expect that an odor is harmful, our bodies react as if that odor is indeed harmful," said study lead author Cristina Jan, PhD, a Monell physiologist. "Both patients and care providers need to understand how expectations about odors can influence symptoms of the disease."
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the lungs. According to the National Institutes of Health, over 25 million Americans have the disease, which can interfere with quality of life. The airways of asthmatics are sensitive to 'triggers' that further inflame and constrict the airways, making it difficult to breathe. There are many different types of triggers, including pollen, dust, irritating chemicals, and allergens. Strong emotions and stress also can act to trigger asthma symptoms.
Because asthma has no cure, it is important for individuals with the disease to understand how to manage their symptoms to help prevent severe asthma attacks.
Many health organizations list scents and fragrances as asthma triggers, leading patients to become anxious when exposed to environmental odors. The current research was conducted to determine whether odor-triggered asthma symptoms can be elicited or worsened by associated negative expectations.
In the study, published online ahead of print in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 17 individuals characterized as moderate asthmatics were exposed to the odor phenylethyl alcohol (PEA) for 15 minutes. Often described as rose-smelling, PEA is regarded as a 'pure' odorant with no associated physiological irritant qualities.
|Contact: Leslie Stein|
Monell Chemical Senses Center