Asthma Myths and Misconceptions

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2023

Asthma is a common condition. But many people do not understand certain things about asthma. Knowing more details about asthma can help you manage your symptoms. It can also help reduce the impact of asthma on your daily life. Here are a few common myths and misconceptions about asthma.1

Myth 1: People with asthma should not exercise

If your asthma is controlled, you should be able to do normal physical activities. Many children with poorly controlled asthma avoid exercise to reduce symptoms. This can hide the severity of their asthma. It can also increase their risk of obesity.1,2

People with asthma should get regular exercise. An active lifestyle can help overall health. It can improve lung function and help with weight control. These are essential in managing asthma.1,2

Exercise may trigger asthma symptoms for some people. Your doctor may suggest using a quick-relief inhaler before exercise. This can help open up the airways. Warming up before physical activity can also help reduce symptoms.1,2

Myth 2: Asthma is a childhood condition and is outgrown by adulthood

Asthma often starts during childhood. But symptoms can start at any age. Some adults diagnosed with asthma may have had undiagnosed asthma as children. But adults can still be diagnosed with new asthma.3

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) condition, and symptoms persist into adulthood. Symptoms may improve as your lungs and immune system develop. This is why some children appear to outgrow their asthma. It is not possible to predict how symptoms will change over time. For some people, symptoms get worse again later in life.2,4

The pattern of wheezing in young children makes this harder to understand. Most children who wheeze early in life do not wheeze after 6 years old. Many of these children may be diagnosed with asthma. But they may not have actually had asthma in the first place.3,4

Myth 3: Asthma is always easy to control

There are many different types of asthma. People with asthma can have different triggers, responses to asthma drugs, and severity of symptoms. Most people with mild or moderate asthma can control asthma with inhaled corticosteroids. But it can be serious, and flares can be life-threatening. And it can cause a huge economic and emotional burden.1,2

About 5 percent of people with asthma have severe asthma. This means that symptoms are hard to control with typical asthma drugs. It does not mean you are doing anything wrong. Uncontrolled asthma may mean that you:1,5

  • Need different medicines, such as biologics
  • Have unidentified triggers
  • Have other chronic conditions that need treatment
  • Are overusing your quick-relief inhaler

Sometimes, improper use of asthma drugs can cause problems. It is common to use inhalers incorrectly. This can prevent enough medicine from getting to your lungs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure you are using your inhaler correctly. Talk to your doctor about any other things that interfere with your ability to control your asthma. These might include:1,5

  • Cost of medicines
  • Transportation to appointments and pharmacies
  • Bothersome side effects
  • Inconvenience

Myth 4: I do not need to take daily asthma control medicine when I feel okay

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition. Even if you do not have symptoms, your airways may be inflamed. Asthma drugs you take over the long term reduce airway inflammation. This prevents symptoms and reduces the risk of asthma attacks.1

If you are feeling fine, your asthma drugs are probably working. If symptoms are controlled for 2 to 3 months, your doctor may step down your treatment. But they will not completely take you off inhaled corticosteroids. Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor first.1,6

It can be hard to remember to take medicine when you feel fine. Make it part of your daily routine. Store your medicines in the same place. Keep them somewhere you will see during daily routines.

Myth 5: Asthma drugs are addictive

Many people with asthma take medicine every day. This is because asthma is a chronic condition. It does not mean that these drugs are addictive. You cannot become physically dependent on any asthma drugs.2,7

It is possible to overuse quick-relief asthma medicines. This can happen if you use quick-relief drugs when you do not have symptoms. Your body or your lungs will not become addicted to your medicine, but you may have side effects. Only use quick-relief drugs during asthma attacks.1

Myth 6: Asthma drugs become less effective over time

Asthma drugs continue to work, even when used long-term. Clinical trials have shown that asthma drugs are effective long-term. This is especially true for inhaled corticosteroids.2,8

It is possible for treatments to seem like they are not working anymore. Symptoms can worsen, or you may use a rescue inhaler more often. This may mean you have more exposure to triggers or risk factors. Or it may mean your asthma has gotten worse. If you think your treatment is not working as well as it used to, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medicines.1

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