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Facebook can trigger asthma attacks, doctors warn

November 18, 2010|By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times

Warning: Facebook could be hazardous to your health.

So says a team of Italian physicians writing in the Nov. 20 edition of the British medical journal Lancet. They describe the case of an 18-year-old man whose asthma had been in check until he logged on to the social networking site and discovered that his ex-girlfriend had gotten over him and become Facebook friends with several other potential suitors.

Apparently, the patient took the break-up rather hard, leaving him in a “depressive state,” according to the report. Since the ex-girlfriend removed him from her list of Facebook friends, the patient had to create a new account with a false identity to regain access to her online profile, including photos of her.

RELATED: Is Facebook healthy for the doctor-patient relationship?

“The sight of this seemed to induce dyspnoea, which happened repeatedly on the patient accessing her profile,” the doctors wrote. (For those who were wondering, dyspnoea – or dyspnea, as it is spelled in the U.S. – describes “difficult or labored breathing, according to MedicineNet.com.) The patient was advised to measure his breathing capacity before and after going online, and indeed, his “peak expiratory flow” fell as much as 20% “post-Facebook,” according to the report.

The good news is that there is a cure for Facebook-induced asthma attacks – staying off the site. When the patient managed to do this – with the help of a psychiatrist – his asthma attacks stopped.

The doctors noted that “psychological stress is a recognized cause of asthma attacks,” and that Facebook could present “a new source of psychological stress” for many people, including those with asthma. As a result, they warn, physicians should be on the look-out for Facebook-induced asthma attacks.

RELATED: Facebook profile reflects the true you

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