Although our knowledge of asthma is expanding year by year, many people still cling to outdated beliefs about the disease. Following are some that are often repeated:
Fable: Asthma comes and goes.
Fact: Asthma is often an inflammatory condition that is always in the airways, even when the person is not having trouble breathing. Exposure to an asthma trigger can worsen symptoms, but the underlying condition never goes away, although it can be controlled with medications and environmental control measures.
Fable: Asthma is an emotional disorder; it’s “all in the mind.”
Fact: Asthma is a lung disease; it affects the airways, not the brain. It’s true that symptoms may get worse when a person is under emotional stress, but this is probably more marked in adults and less so in children. Changes in the airways in asthma occur through physiological mechanisms, not emotional ones.
Fable: People with asthma should use medications only when they have attacks; otherwise, the medications lose their effect.
Fact: Regularly using medications is the only way to calm the underlying airway inflammation and prevent asthma flare-ups. Used at the correct dosage, daily medications do not lose their effect or cause uncomfortable side effects. Effective antiasthma medications include inhaled beta-agonists such as albuterol to stop attacks, and inhaled steroids, long-acting beta-agonists, and leukotriene modifiers to prevent attacks from occurring at all.
Fable: Asthma is just an annoying condition, not a real disease.
Fact: Asthma can kill when people do not get treatment to control the underlying condition and stop severe attacks. If everybody who needed medications used the proper ones to control symptoms and prevent flare-ups, hospitalizations and deaths from asthma would be greatly reduced.
Fable: Children grow out of asthma.
Fact: Most people who have asthma are born with a tendency to the condition and keep it for life. It is true many children get much better with age, and their asthma appears to go away completely. However, many have it return in adulthood. Other children who still have asthma are less likely to lose their asthma as they go in to their adult years.
Fable: Asthma clears up when you move to a warm, dry climate.
Fact: If the proper environmental measures are taken and medications are regularly used, people with asthma can live comfortably in any climate they prefer. Very rarely do people ever have to move out of a city or other area because of their asthma.