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Does acid reflux (heartburn) worsen asthma?


Updated September 16, 2008

Question: Does acid reflux (heartburn) worsen asthma?
Answer: Definitely. There is a well-known association between asthma and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), although the reason for this relationship is not clear. In fact, many people with severe asthma have GERD as a reason why their asthma symptoms are so difficult to control. While some of these people are aware of their GERD symptoms, such as burping, burning sensation in the chest, sour taste in the mouth, others have none of these symptoms and have “silent GERD."

Worsening asthma symptoms at night or immediately after meals is suggestive of GERD, although these patterns are not always present for all people with GERD. Acid reflux should also be considered for people with recurrent pneumonias and sinus infections. Sometimes obstructive sleep apnea can occur frequently with severe nighttime GERD that is resistant to medications and can also lead to asthma, sinus infections, shortness of breath and coughing, in addition to other chronic medical problems.

Treatment of GERD for many severe asthmatics results in better control of their asthma symptoms. Medications, such as antihistamines (specifically for the stomach) or proton-pump inhibitors, are often effective in the treatment of GERD. In severe cases of GERD related to difficult-to-treat asthma, medications may not be effective. In these situations, surgical treatment of GERD may prove effective for the treatment of severe asthma.

Learn more about the basics of asthma.


Rothenberg SS, Bratton D. The Effects of Laparoscopic Nissen Fundoplication to Enhance Pulmonary Function in the Treatment of a Patient with Severe Asthma and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008;121:1069-70.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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