Inflammation or irritation in the airways, which can result from a variety of factors, causes bronchial spasms, explains Baylor Scott & White Health. Some factors that cause the airways to become inflamed or irritated are allergies, environmental irritants, infections, changes in weather and stress. Exercising is also a potential culprit. Cigarette smoke, paint fumes, strong odors and pollution are examples of environmental irritants that can affect the airways, resulting in bronchial spasms.
Bronchial spasms occur when the airways tighten and restrict in response to inflammation or irritation, making breathing harder, as Baylor Scott & White Health describes. In addition to trouble breathing, patients having bronchial spasms may experience wheezing, coughing or chest tightness. The coughing may be especially excessive at night. Bronchial spasms occur commonly in asthma patients, but not everyone who experiences these spasms is asthmatic.
Doctors commonly prescribe inhaled medications that expand the airways to help patients with bronchial spasms breathe more easily, states Baylor Scott & White Health. Patients inhale the medication using an inhaler or a nebulizer machine. Corticosteroid medications are available to treat especially severe spasms. Patients can also lessen their chances of spasms by taking steps to minimize irritants in their environments, such as regularly changing heating and air conditioner filters, not permitting smoking in their homes and replacing carpeting with hard flooring.