Hypnosis, asthma and allergies: a solution to overcome acute episodes and to prevent them on the long term.

Asthma is one of the most common reparatory diseases of our time, millions of people suffer from it all around the world and it can be defined as a chronic airway inflammation with intermittent exacerbations (attacks) that are reversible either spontaneously or by treatment1.
Typical treatment involves bronchodilators and corticosteroids, focusing on long term symptom control or immediate relief.  Asthma can also interact with ongoing inflammatory responses: one out of every two asthmatics has allergic or atopic asthma2. These individuals are particularly sensitive to allergens such as pollen, dust, smoke, animal dander etc., that, if inhaled, can provoke an attack. Even if it is a condition that can lead to death only in a small number of cases, it requires constant medical attention and despite the exponential growth of scientific material about it, its prevalence tends to increase especially among children and young adults3.
Can hypnosis be useful to those who suffer from asthma? Scientific literature says yes: a substantial quantity of researches proves its therapeutic effects.
A study conducted at the University of Connecticut4 focused on four groups of children. Participants in the first group received hypnotic treatment, those in the second one received suggestions in a common waking state (that is without taking part to a hypnotic session), those in the third group were exposed to a placebo intervention (discussion of children’s personal interests) and the fourth group, a control group, didn’t receive any treatment apart from the usual medical therapy. After two years of observation, results indicated that the children included in the hypnosis group, while showing a reduction of the symptomatology, missed fewer school days compared to the other children. Furthermore, children who were more skillful in utilizing the hypnotic state as suggested by the researchers, showed remarkable improvements; this finding supports the hypothesis that a training in hypnotic abilities can represent a resource for symptom management.
The previous study, along with others, demonstrates that hypnosis is effective in managing the consequences of asthma on the long term. Another branch of research explored the possibility to intervene on ongoing attacks. A study conducted on children who were examined in a hospital during asthma attacks5 showed that hypnosis allowed to reduce airway resistance. Researchers also reported that 80% of the children treated with this technique didn’t require bronchodilators.
These kinds of evidence lead, in some cases, to the implementation of hypnotic protocols in centers for the treatment of pulmonary diseases. For instance, a study conducted in 20056, which lasted 3 years, describes how a medical team trained in hypnosis obtained the improvement or the remission of the symptoms of 80% of the patients of the Paediatric Pulmonary Center of the Upstate Medical University. The author also highlights that one of the strong points of this technique is that it can be taught both to different kinds of professionals and to patients, in order to use it to effectively manage symptoms.
Brown, in 20077, reviewed evidences since the sixties, concluding that hypnosis is an instrument that proved its efficacy and that needs further research in order to fully understand its potential and principles. Part of this need comes from the fact that a large part of the research in the field consists in case studies. The benefits obtained by the subjects of such studies comprise many aspects: the reduction of symptoms, the acquisition of effective strategies to cope with asthma attacks, the improvement of the quality of life and the reduction of illness associated behaviors (frequency of medical visits, medication consumption, social withdrawal). Future research will have to focus on the replication and confirmation of these results.