Facebook Triggers Asthma Attacks, Doctors Say

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News, Research Reveals: Teens

Facebook may be to blame for breathing problems. Credit: Corbis

If you've got asthma, you'd better think twice before you log in to Facebook.
That's right, folks. In a letter published today in The Lancet, one of the world's most prestigious medical journals, a team of Italian doctors report that Facebook can trigger asthma attacks.

This nugget of breaking scientific news is apparently based on the case history of an 18-year-old asthmatic boy in Italy whose girlfriend broke up with him, unfriended him on Facebook and then began " 'friending' many new young men," the researchers report.

Like many heartbroken teenage boy these days, the jilted Romeo created a fictitious Facebook account and succeeded in friending his ex again. But every time he accessed her Facebook profile, he became short of breath.

"The sight of (the girl's profile picture) seemed to induce dyspnea, which happened repeatedly on the patient accessing her profile," the authors write.

Since the boy's asthma symptoms had previously been controlled with medication, and the onset of his breathing problems coincided with the recent break-up and subsequent depression, the doctors concluded the two must be related.

To prove their theory, the boy's mother was told to measure his peak expiratory flow -- a measure of how fast a person can exhale, often used to help monitor asthma symptoms -- before and after he logged in to Facebook.

Sure enough, the boy's "post-Facebook" peak flow values were around 20 percent lower, which led the doctors to conclude Facebook was the trigger of his asthma flare-ups.

Here's the scientific part of the equation, according to the authors: Facebook, and social networks in general, could be a new source of psychological stress, which could trigger asthma symptoms in people who are depressed.

"Considering the high prevalence of asthma, especially among young people, we suggest that this type of trigger be considered in the assessment of asthma exacerbations," the authors conclude.

And what of the poor Italian boy? The authors note he resigned to stop logging in to Facebook, with the help of a psychiatrist, and his asthma attacks stopped.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.