Wheezing, coughing, and a tightening feeling in your throat and lungs. Sound familiar? If so, you may be one of the estimated 25 million people in the United States affected by asthma.

If you have asthma, you may be willing to try anything to avoid triggers and relieve symptoms. You might be using an air purifier, staying clear of furry pets or other potential triggers, and avoiding smoke. You may have even discussed taking a daily medication to reduce the likelihood of attacks with your doctor.

What about pulling out your heating pad to help relieve some of the discomforts though? Is this safe? Effective? Don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging without answers to the questions we know are running through your mind.

It can be safe to use a heating pad on your chest, but you’ll want to make sure that it’s on the lowest setting and not directly on your skin. This helps reduce the risk of burns.

While it might sound cozy, you shouldn’t fall asleep with a heating pad on your chest as this can cause burns, too.

Before using a heating pad on your chest, you’ll also want to think about your asthma triggers. For some people, heat can actually make it harder to breathe.

If you’re having an asthma attack, you should follow any protocols your doctor has given you. In general, this means:

  • sitting up straight and trying to remain calm
  • removing yourself from any known asthma triggers
  • using a relief inhaler, or nebulizer, if one has been prescribed to you
  • calling 9-1-1 if your symptoms are not improving

It’s important to note that research on using heating pads with asthma is minimal. Additionally, dry, humid air can make breathing more difficult, so you’ll want to avoid heating pads on the chest if heat is an asthma trigger for you.

A heating pad is not an alternative to a rescue inhaler or other asthma medication. It’s also not a way to cure asthma. Unfortunately, no known cure exists.

However, if you have a lingering cough or wheeze that’s causing your chest muscles to hurt and feel tight, a heating pad on the chest may help to get more blood flowing to the area, which can help loosen muscles and relieve pain.

Heat therapy for asthma

If your chest is hurting and you’d like to try using a heating pad to relieve some of the pain, you’ll want to:

  • Start by using the heating pad on the lowest setting.
  • Make sure not to place the pad directly on your skin. You don’t need a fancy cloth or cover, but you’ll want something like a towel to protect your body from burns.
  • Limit the amount of time you leave the hot pad on your body without taking a break. Try no longer than 15 or 20 minutes.

If you’re feeling congested or have a lot of mucus in your throat, you may wish to try a warm shower instead. The warm, moist shower air can help open the breathing passages and thin the mucus, so it’s easier to cough it out.

There’s not much research to prove the benefits of heating pad use with asthma, but there is a type of heat therapy that has caught the attention of medical professionals working with asthma.

Doctors have used a specific type of heat therapy to help those with severe, uncontrolled asthma. Called bronchial thermoplasty, this procedure reduces asthma symptoms by delivering low heat to the source of the problem (the smooth muscle of the airways).

This procedure requires three visits. Doctors will sedate you and use a bronchoscope to insert a small catheter directly into the lungs. Then, they apply gentle heat to shrink the smooth muscles in the lungs. (These are the muscles that tighten during asthma attacks making it hard to breathe.)

While bronchial thermoplasty does not eliminate asthma in patients, it has helped reduce the number of attacks and intensity of symptoms in those with severe, uncontrolled asthma.

Does a heating pad on your back help your lungs?

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of research around this.

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to apply a heating pack as close to the source of muscle soreness as possible, since heat brings more blood to the area where it’s applied, which can relieve joint stiffness and muscle spasms.

If you’ve never been officially diagnosed with asthma, it’s important to notify your doctor and discuss your asthma concerns with them.

If you have been diagnosed with asthma, it’s important to follow any asthma action plan you and your doctor have discussed. You should discuss your asthma with your doctor at least once a year and reach out to your doctor if:

  • your asthma attacks are increasing in intensity or amount
  • you feel faint, weak, or dizzy
  • you have a cough that won’t go away
  • your wheezing isn’t improving after using prescribed medications

It’s important to get immediate medical help or call 9-1-1 if:

  • your lips or nails are turning blue
  • you’re taking 30 or more breaths per minute
  • talking or walking at a normal rate is hard

While a heating pad may not be the solution to all your asthma woes, there’s a chance it can at least reduce some chest discomfort.

You won’t need a prescription from your doctor to use a heating pad, but you may still wish to discuss your plan to use one with them. They can offer personalized advice.

If you do choose to use a heating pad, it’s important to keep in mind that it should not be used as a replacement for any prescribed medications or asthma action plans.

If you’re having an asthma attack, you should seek medical assistance as quickly as possible.