Asthma attack 'caused by Facebook'
A case of Facebook triggering asthma has prompted warnings about the psychological dangers of social networking sites.
Doctors in Italy reported on a depressed 18-year-old who was dumped by his girlfriend and then saw her picture on Facebook.
The shock brought on an asthma attack, which was repeated each time he logged on and accessed his ex's profile. When a psychiatrist persuaded the teenager to stay clear of the site, the attacks stopped.
Writing in The Lancet medical journal, Dr Gennaro D'Amato, from Naples, and two colleagues pointed out that psychological stress was a recognised cause of asthma attacks.
They added: "This case indicates that Facebook, and social networks in general, could be a new source of psychological stress, representing a triggering factor for exacerbations in depressed asthmatic individuals."
The patient had suffered from chronic asthma which was kept under control by inhaled medications.
His mother helped doctors uncover the Facebook connection after his symptoms suddenly worsened.
The boy's ex-girlfriend had deleted him from Facebook, while "friending" a number of new young men. Adopting a new nickname, he succeeded in covertly becoming one of her "friends" again and was eventually able to see her picture.
"The sight of this seemed to induce dyspnoea (breathlessness), which happened repeatedly on the patient accessing her profile," said the doctors.
The mother was advised to ask her son to measure how well he could exhale before and after logging onto the internet and post-Facebook "expiratory flow" values were found to be reduced, with a variability of 20%.