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.