Myth or Fact? What’s True about Asthma?

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Is your asthma knowledge up-to-date? As researchers continue to find out more about asthma, make sure you know the facts vs. the myths.

Myth: Asthma is only caused by airborne allergies like mold and pollen.
Fact: Everyone has different asthma triggers. It’s true that allergies may cause as many as half of asthma attacks. But air-borne allergies are only part of that. Allergies to cats, dust mites, cockroaches, even certain foods, are other common asthma triggers. There are many other causes as well—some that have nothing at all to do with allergies. Others are working out, breathing cold air, stress, and infections that cause airways to become clogged with mucus.

Myth: It’s simple to diagnose asthma in children.
Fact: It can be hard to tell if someone has asthma, especially in children under age five. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a doctor should check how well the child’s lungs work, and check for allergies. The doctor should ask whether the child coughs a lot and whether the child’s breathing problems are worse after exercise or at certain times of the year. The doctor should also ask about chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than ten days. He or she should ask whether anyone in the family has asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems.

Asthma can be confused with other illnesses, such as croup and cystic fibrosis. The only way to know for sure that someone has asthma is through a breathing test using a tool called a spirometer. It measures the amount of air the patient is able to breathe in and out.

Myth: Asthma is easy to control
Fact: It’s true that asthma can be controlled. But it isn’t always easy. There are four kinds of asthma: intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent and severe persistent. People who have mild, moderate or severe persistent asthma need a daily drug to control swelling of the airways. Patients whose asthma is under control should have symptoms no more than two days per week and one to two nights per month.

Myth: Being overweight has nothing to do with asthma.
Fact: The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in 2007 said that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to have asthma. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found that obese adults with asthma were 66 percent more likely to have ongoing symptoms, 36 percent more likely to miss work, and 52 percent more likely to have more severe asthma than people who were not heavy.

Myth: The number one sign of asthma is a wheezing sound when someone breathes.
Fact: Wheezing is one symptom of asthma. But it is not the only one. Other signs of asthma are coughing, being short of breath, feeling congested, finding it hard to breathe after exercising, and recurring bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia.

Myth: Since exercise can cause an asthma attack, children with asthma should not join sports teams or play actively.
Fact: Asthma didn’t stop athletes Paula Radcliffe, a marathoner, or Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a track star, from going to the Olympics.

Having asthma might call for some change to a child’s activity, like making sure there is more down time to rest, but a child with asthma should still get plenty of exercise. In fact, being fit means that less burden is placed on lungs during exercise. Being active also helps people stay at a healthy weight, which can lessen asthma symptoms.

Still, children with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan written by the doctor and shared with the child and his or her parents, the school nurse, coaches and any others the child may be in care of. The Asthma Action Plan outlines the child’s asthma triggers, symptoms and proper care.

Myth: Asthma can be cured.
Fact: There is no cure for asthma. It is a life-long health issue. But, with proper care, treatment, and training, the disease can be managed. A key piece of that is to understand the individual’s asthma triggers and learning how to avoid them.

Myth: Children will outgrow asthma.
Fact: This is both true and false. About half of children who had asthma between ages two and ten notice a marked drop in symptoms as they grow. But asthma can come back when those children reach their 30s.

Myth: The best way to control asthma is with a rescue inhaler.
Fact: There are many ways to treat asthma, but using a rescue inhaler more than twice a week means your asthma is not well-controlled. Talk with your doctor about daily controller drugs, ways to avoid asthma triggers, and other ways to keep your child’s asthma under control.

Myth: Asthma is mostly just a problem for inner city kids.
Fact: Nearly 26 million Americans have asthma. People across ethnic and racial groups and in all parts of the country have asthma. It is one of the country’s most expensive and most common health problems.

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