12 Asthma Myths Worth Noting
By John Bottrell, RRT · December 8, 2016
Asthma is a disease that continues to be plagued by myths. Adherence to these myths can result in asthma that is not properly diagnosed and remains poorly controlled. Here are 10 of the most common asthma myths worth noting.
- Asthma is easy to diagnose. This is true in some cases. For instance, I have asthma, so when my children started having asthma symptoms, a diagnosis of asthma was easy. For others, getting to an asthma diagnosis is not so easy. This is because there are other diseases that mimic asthma, so getting to a proper asthma diagnosis may entail going through a series of tests to rule out these other diseases.
- Asthma is a nervous disorder. Your asthma is all in your head. Your anxiety is what causes your asthma. Treating it as a nervous disorder results in taking medicine to ease your mind rather than open your airways. Today, it’s well understood that while anxiety may trigger asthma, it doesn’t cause it.
- Asthma is an allergic disorder. Through much of the 20th-century asthma was considered to be an allergic disorder. Physicians who continue to believe in this are dating themselves. It’s now understood that there are many subgroups of asthma, only one of which is allergic asthma.
- All asthma is the same. Many asthma guidelines were created on the premise that all asthma was the same. This assumed all asthmatics would benefit from the same treatments. While this may have benefited many asthmatics, some continued to have poorly controlled asthma despite being compliant with their asthma treatment regimen. Today, researchers understand asthma is a heterogeneous disease, where every asthmatic may present with unique asthma triggers, unique asthma symptoms, and respond to different asthma medicines.
- Asthma is easy to treat. The revelation that every asthmatic is different should explain why finding what medicines work best is often a matter of trial and error. It should explain why what works best for one asthmatic does not work for others. It also explains why most asthmatics respond well to traditional asthmatics, and yet some do not respond well to them. This means that asthma is not always so easy to treat.
- It’s best to treat asthma only when it’s happening. This was the case for most of history. When I was a kid, I was told to only take my inhaled steroids when I was feeling symptoms, and once I started feeling better to stop taking it. This resulted in poorly controlled asthma. Today, asthma researchers recommend that you take your asthma medicine every day, even when you feel good, especially when you feel good. This way asthma symptoms can be prevented and easily controlled.
- You should move to asthma-friendly environments. By the early 19th century it was recognized that people with asthma had fewer symptoms at higher altitudes, or in warm and dry climates. This was why states like Arizona and Colorado became asthma safe havens. Today, with all the great medicines now available, researchers believe asthma can be controlled no matter where you live. This was a major revelation for asthmatics because it no longer meant they had to move away from their family and friends to obtain ideal asthma control.
- All that wheezes is asthma. There are many diseases that cause wheezes, including heart failure, kidney failure, COPD, vocal cord dysfunction. Once these diseases were identified by the medical community, these patients were able to get the proper diagnosis and treatment they deserved. Still, despite recognition of these other diseases, many physicians continue to treat all wheezes was asthma. This is fine if you actually have asthma, although not so fine if you have one of these other diseases.
- All asthmatics wheeze. There continues to be many in the medical community, including doctors, who continue to adhere to the old myth that all asthmatics wheeze. Based on this myth, if you are not wheezing you are fine, even if you are short of breath. This type of thinking has lead to many asthmatics not getting the proper diagnosis and treatment they deserve. It’s important to understand that, because asthma is a heterogeneous disease, some wheeze and some do not wheeze.
- Childhood-onset asthma goes away with age. When I was a kid I was told so many times that my asthma would eventually go away. For some reason, I didn’t buy into this myth, and thankfully so. Today, researchers understand that asthma is caused by asthma genes, and once they are activated you will always have it. That said, many cases of childhood onset asthma do seem to go into hibernation. This is not because you no longer have it, rather because your lungs are bigger and less sensitive, and because you are less likely to be exposed to your asthma triggers. Being aware that asthma never goes away will assure that you stay prepared in the event it does show up again.
- Asthmatics should avoid exercise. Most asthmatics have what is referred to as exercise induced asthma. This means that exercise triggers your asthma. This does not mean that you should avoid exercise. Researchers now understand that exercise makes your heart and lungs stronger, and can actually help improve your asthma control. Today, there are credible strategies for preventing exercise from triggering asthma. Most asthma experts believe that all asthmatics, including severe asthmatics, should exercise, even if it entails a simple walk.
- Rescue medicine will cure my asthma. Keeping a rescue inhaler like albuterol nearby is all I need to manage my asthma. If I feel short of breath I can just keep puffing on my inhaler. When you do this, you are treating the symptom and not the problem. Asthma means you have chronic underlying airway inflammation making your airways twitchy in response to asthma triggers. Asthma controller medicines taken every day can reduce this inflammation to prevent asthma symptoms, and prevent the need to use your rescue medicine.
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