Recent study claims caffeine may relieve asthma symptoms

Some people can’t go without their morning cup of coffee, and for some people with asthma, coffee may help them wake up and breathe better, too.

The caffeine in drinks such as a cup of coffee may have the ability to relieve asthma sufferers of their symptoms for two to four hours, according to a new study. Researchers in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that caffeine, even in a moderately low dose, can improve asthma sufferers’ lung function.

St. Thomas junior Jazz Hampton, who is typically hospitalized once or twice a year for problems related to asthma, said he is a bit skeptical of the study’s claim.

“I’ve had horrible asthma my whole life and I’ve also had an obsession with caffeine,” Hampton said. “If it [the study] was true, I think I would be the least asthmatic person in the world.”

Freshman Annie Prassas, on the other hand, said she has seen a slight difference in her ability to breathe after consuming caffeine.

“After I drink tea, my lungs feel so much better,” Prassas said. “I wouldn’t run a marathon, but I feel pretty good.”

The airway relief is believed to be caused by a caffeine byproduct that is similar in chemical makeup to a common asthma medication, Theophylline. The medication relaxes airway muscles and relieves common asthma symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

But can a quick caffeine fix replace an asthma sufferer’s medication?

Using caffeine to help one’s asthma might not be that great of an idea, said Madonna McDermott, director of student health services and the wellness center.

“The study does support that caffeine is a weak bronchodiliator, and may offer some relief to folks with mild asthma,” McDermott said. “However, the study was inconclusive and I would be hesitant to promote this as a means of improving one’s asthma.”

Health Services nurse practitioner Kate Booth emphasized how important it is to properly treat asthma symptoms.

“Health Services, the medical professionals at large, and public health professionals spend a lot of time and money to communicate and prescribe effective health measures to properly avoid triggers of asthma,” Booth said.

Booth said caffeine would show little, if any, benefits for asthma symptoms, and that proper treatment outweighs non-medical treatments such as caffeine.

“To not delay treatment and to use tried and true treatments on a daily basis, and when symptoms worsen, is the only way at present to avoid hospitalizations or worse, Booth said. “Caffeine is a far cry from the comprehensive approach to asthma treatment.”

Caffeine could help those who suffer from asthma relieve some of their symptoms. But it is advised that people taking Theophylline watch their caffeine consumption as the similar chemical structure of the two can lead to an increased likelihood of experiencing the medication’s side effects.

Colleen Schreier can be reached at

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