Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions seen in both kids and adults. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, more than 26 million people — or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population — currently have asthma. With so many people suffering, it’s not surprising that many myths have surfaced that need to be busted.
Here are a few of those myths, along with the facts:
1. People will “outgrow” asthma.
This is a disturbing myth. Since many people with asthma believe it will go away on its own, they fail to control their condition with proper treatment. It’s not uncommon for children with asthma to improve during adolescence and young adulthood but then re-develop symptoms as they get older. Over 7 percent of the adult population in the U.S. 65 years of age and older have asthma.
2. Nobody dies from asthma.
This myth also causes people with asthma to go without treatment and allow their symptoms to get worse. Unfortunately, asthma can kill. The good news is that research from last year showed that the rate of death from asthma fell from 2.1 to 1.2 per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2015. But those statistics mean more than 3,000 Americans died from asthma in 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 18 million emergency department visits and almost 350,000 hospitalizations due to this condition that same year.
3. People with asthma should not exercise.
If your asthma is under control, there is no reason you can’t exercise. Studies show that the health of people with asthma who are obese is worse than those with asthma who are not obese. Exercise makes your heart and lungs stronger and improves your immune system. Some of the best exercises for those with asthma are swimming, indoor and outdoor biking, walking and hiking. Some people with asthma do develop symptoms while exercising. This is called exercise-induced asthma, which tends to be worse when exercising in a cold, dry environment. There are excellent treatments to help prevent exercise-induced asthma, so check with your board-certified allergist to make sure you stay in the game.
4. Asthma medications are habit-forming and dangerous.
There are many different asthma medications. Some are used regularly to prevent symptoms; others only when you have an asthma flare-up. As with all medications, you must consider the risks against the benefits. The good news is that none of the asthma medications used in the U.S. are habit-forming or addicting. They are not controlled substances, like opioids. Usually the biggest concern is the use of inhaled corticosteroids in the management of asthma. These medications are not related to the type of steroids some athletes have used to increase muscle growth. There may be concern with long-term use in children, as these medications can affect how fast a child grows. The good news is that the data doesn’t suggest an effect on final adult height. It’s important to note that children whose asthma is not well-controlled may have decreased growth and be shorter than their peers. Always discuss your or your child’s asthma medications with your allergist.
5. Chihuahuas can cure my child’s asthma.
This is one of my favorite myths. You would think common sense would tell you this can’t be true, but it won’t go away. You can even find this myth as fact in medical journals from the 1950s. Where did it come from? The story goes that if you bring a chihuahua into the house of a child with asthma, the asthma goes from the child into the dog. In children with asthma, many will have fewer symptoms as they get older. As chihuahuas age, they make a “wheezing” type of sound when they breathe; thus the idea that the child’s asthma has transferred to the dog. Just to make it clear, chihuahuas are cute dogs, but they will not cure asthma.
Make sure you get the facts on asthma. Many people don’t realize that allergists are specially trained to help you take control of your asthma, so you can live the life you want. They can help you develop an action plan to get your asthma under control. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has an allergist locator on its website to help you find an allergist in your area.
More from U.S. News