Myths and facts about asthma

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases globally and currently affects approximately 300 million people worldwide. It is a syndrome characterized by airflow obstruction that varies markedly, both spontaneously and with treatment.

Here are the common misconceptions about asthma – and the facts you need to know.

Myth: Asthma is all in your head.
Fact: The disease affects the airways – it’s not a psychological disorder. Asthma is a heterogeneous disease with interplay between genetic and environmental factors. It can be triggered by allergens, exercise, stress and emotions. Stress and anxiety can sometimes exacerbate asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing and wheezing, but not all asthma is psychological.

Myth: People with asthma should avoid physical activity.
Fact: The goal for anyone with asthma should be to live a normal, healthy life — which includes regular exercise. Physical activity should always be a goal to control asthma symptoms and airway inflammation so that people can remain active. The truth is, exercise is essential for asthmatics, and can make your heart and lungs stronger. It can increase your immune response and make you less likely to get a cold. Physical activity helps to keep lungs resilient. Your healthcare provider may recommend using a short-acting beta-agonist (SABA) five to 20 minutes before exercising.

Myth: All asthmatics wheeze during an asthma attack.
Fact: The truth is, many asthmatics – don’t wheeze at all. Sometimes asthma gets so bad there’s not enough air movement to cause a wheeze. So not all asthmatics wheeze. We know there are many airway diseases that cause a wheeze. For example, heart (cardiac) failure causes a loud, audible, upper airway wheeze. Asthma wheezes are silent, and can only be heard with the aid of a stethoscope (with a few exceptions of course).

Myth: You can outgrow asthma.
Fact: Asthma may improve with age, but it’s a lifelong condition. Asthma symptoms may change over time and become intermittent or disappear but it often comes back. This may be due to environmental changes or changes in the body as people age.

Myth: Asthmatics should move to dry climates.
Fact: Not true at all. No matter where you move, your asthma will move with you. You may be leaving one asthma trigger, but your new location will present new ones. And some allergens, like dust mites, are ubiquitous, so you’ll never get away from them no matter where you go. The good news is asthma can be controlled and prevented no matter where you live, so you don’t need to make a stressful move.

Myth: All asthmatics should be treated the same.
Fact: Every case of asthma is unique. Some mild cases require no medicine, some require few medicine, and some require a variety of treatments to gain good control. Some asthmatics struggle to gain control no matter what they do.

Myth: You don’t need to take asthma controller medicine when you feel fine.
Fact: Wrong! Unless you are the lucky few. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute strongly recommends taking your long-term control medications each day. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease, in order to keep your asthma controlled, and to prevent asthma attacks, you need to take your asthma controller medicines especially when you are feeling well. By taking your medicine every day, your lungs will be strong and prepared when you’re exposed to your asthma triggers.

Myth: Asthma medicine is only needed to stop an attack.
Fact: That depends. There are four categories of asthma: intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent and severe persistent. People who have mild, moderate or severe persistent asthma need a daily long-term controller medicine, usually an inhaled corticosteroid, to control inflammation and minimize asthma attacks. By Dr. Ryan Duro Beatizula

Health Pro by John Bottrell
Everyday Health

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