Viral respiratory tract infections are a common cause of asthma attacks. Study of this phenomenon has revealed multiple mechanisms and contributed to understanding of the increase in airway inflammation and bronchoconstriction observed in this context. Changes in the neural control of the airways contribute to bronchoconstriction, which is reflected in an increased efficacy of anticholinergic medications during acute asthma attacks. The ability to prevent or treat viral respiratory tract infections is currently limited. However, as more effective antiviral treatments and vaccines become available, such therapies are likely to be effective in patients with asthma. Clinical management of this problem is illustrated in this article by the case of a 40-year-old woman with history of mild asthma who was admitted to an intensive care unit with severe bronchospasm and an upper respiratory tract infection.
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