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On World Asthma Day, a doctor busts 7 myths about the condition

Published on:4 May 2021, 16:22pm IST
Asthma is a chronic condition of the lungs, but it can only be controlled when the right information is available. That’s why we are busting all the myths around asthma.
Dr Puneet Khanna
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Asthma can be fatal, in extreme cases. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

These are challenging times, especially since a virus has crippled the health of millions. Increase in pollution raises susceptibility to the infection, something which has already been aggravating respiratory illnesses like asthma. While air pollution has dropped sharply around the world, including India, the novel virus that targets the lungs could potentially put an asthmatic patient at risk. 

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung condition, which makes it difficult for a person to breathe. It is characterised by attacks of wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. This inflammatory condition can either be minor or can interfere with day-to-day activities. It affects the airways that carry air to your lungs. Patients dealing with asthma have swollen or inflamed airways, which can make a person more sensitive to irritants. 

Asthma can make breathing difficult for the sufferer. It is triggered by irritants or some allergen, like cold air, viruses, tobacco smoke, dust, pollen, moulds, and animal dander. The symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and/or chest tightness. In some people, severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening. An asthma attack may last a few minutes or for days. Attacks can happen anywhere and at any time. It is the most common chronic disease among children worldwide. More than 339 million people are living with asthma. It is very important to get treatment for asthma to live a healthy, active life.

Millions of people suffer from asthma but despite its prevalence, several myths and misconceptions surround asthma. 

Below are some of the myths and facts on asthma, to help manage the condition better-

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.

asthma and covid
Research reveals asthma does not seem to increase the risk of covid-19. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Myth 2 – People with asthma should not exercise

Fact – Exercising regularly is found to be beneficial for asthma patients

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, which is why 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.

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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.

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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.

Dr Puneet Khanna Dr Puneet Khanna

Dr Puneet Khanna, HOD and Consultant- Respiratory Sciences, Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka, New Delhi.