Asthma is one of the most common respiratory conditions that occur in both children and adults. It is a chronic (long-term) disease of the lungs which causes the airways to become inflamed and narrow. When exposed to triggers, the inflamed airways further swell and produce extra mucus, making it difficult to breathe. The symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and/or chest tightness. In some people, severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening.
Millions of people suffer from asthma but despite its prevalence, several myths and misconceptions surround asthma. This article will shed light on some of the myths and facts on asthma, to help manage the condition better.
Common asthma myths and facts
Myth 1 - Childhood asthma goes away with age
Fact – Symptoms of asthma may reappear in adulthood
There is no cure for asthma but the frequency of asthma attacks and the severity may reduce with age. Children with asthma may see an improvement in their condition as they grow older. Their sensitivity to asthmatic triggers may also reduce.
Myth 2 - People with asthma should not exercise
Fact - Exercising regularly is found to be beneficial for asthma symptoms
It is a common notion that exercising will aggravate the symptoms of asthma. But the fact is, physical activity helps to strengthen and improve lung function. It is also found to improve the overall fitness and quality of life of people with asthma. However, strenuous physical activity can lead to an asthma attack and hence, should be avoided.
Myth 3 - Medications used for asthma are habit-forming and become ineffective over time
Fact – Asthma medications are safe and necessary for effective management of asthma
As asthma is a chronic condition, long-term medications are required to manage the symptoms. These medications relax the muscles surrounding the airways and widen the airways. Bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids are some of the medications used to manage asthma. These medications are not habit-forming and are beneficial to keep asthma under control.
Myth 4 - Asthma cannot be fatal
Fact - Although rare, asthma can be fatal
Asthma is a chronic, incurable disease affecting millions of people. If left untreated, the symptoms of asthma can worsen and prove fatal. Also, asthma flare-ups can be life-threatening but are rare. Managing asthma involves understanding and avoiding the triggers of asthma attacks. People with severe asthma should be able to recognize and learn to prevent severe attacks.
Myth 5 - Asthma should only be treated when symptoms arise
Fact - Asthma must be controlled with regular medications prescribed by the physician
Some medications provide quick relief and are taken only during an asthma attack. Because asthma is chronic, long-term asthma control medications may also be prescribed. These medications when taken every day reduce airway inflammation and prevent the occurrence of an attack. However, the treatment will depend on the severity and frequency of attacks.
Myth 6 - If there is no wheezing, it is not asthma
Fact - Asthma can flare up without wheezing
Wheezing refers to breathing that makes a whistling sound when air passes through the narrowed airway. This occurs due to the inflammation and constriction of airways which makes breathing difficult. Wheezing is usually audible but in case of a severe attack, it can only be heard with a stethoscope. When a severe flare-up prevents the movement of air in and out of the lungs, wheezing may not occur.
Myth 7 - Everyone with asthma experiences the same symptoms
Fact – Symptoms of asthma may vary with people
Some people may have several symptoms of asthma that include cough, wheezing, and chest tightness, while others may have just one symptom. The symptoms may vary in the same person from one episode to another, and the symptoms may also range from mild to severe. By understanding how asthma affects each person, the condition can be managed better.
It is important to get the right facts on asthma as misconceptions can prevent people from getting appropriate treatment. Asthma can be managed effectively by taking medications as prescribed by the doctor, by following a healthy lifestyle, and watching out for symptoms. With proper management, people with asthma can lead an active, normal, productive, and healthy life.