The theme of World Asthma Day 2021 was ‘Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions’.

Throughout history, there have been various myths around asthma -- for example, cigarettes were once considered an effective treatment for asthma attacks! While that myth has thankfully fallen by the wayside, there are still plenty of misconceptions that remain widespread. Sadly, these misconceptions can prevent people from getting the support they need to keep their asthma well controlled and to live life to the full.

So what are some common asthma myths, and where does the truth really lie?

Myth #1 - Avoid exercise if you have asthma

It was once thought that physical activity could make asthma worse, but experts now recognise the importance of exercise for people living with asthma. Studies have shown that sports and exercise can have a positive effect on asthma symptoms.

It’s possible that asthma may flare up during exercise, particularly in cold, dry air. Many sports people with asthma find their symptoms worsen with the change in weather. It’s important to have an Asthma Action Plan in place so that you can continue to enjoy sports while keeping your symptoms under control. For those just starting their exercise journey, it’s important to start small and build fitness gradually. If the activity is too strenuous for your fitness level, or you’re not monitoring your asthma properly, you might risk an attack.

Myth #2 - People outgrow childhood asthma

While some children’s symptoms do improve over time, you mustn’t assume that your child doesn’t need asthma treatment anymore. Sometimes, symptoms recede and then return in young adulthood. Asthma can also develop in adults who never had asthma as children. This can be triggered by obesity, allergies, or exposure to toxins.

Myth #3 - I should only use my inhaler when I really need it, or the medicine will stop working

There are two types of medications prescribed for asthma: preventers and relievers. The preventer is taken daily to control airway swelling, and the reliever treats symptoms of an asthma flare-up.

There is no evidence that taking regular asthma medication long term reduces its effectiveness. Prevention is better than cure, so taking your preventer medication regularly is key to managing your asthma well.

When you do have an asthma attack, this doesn’t mean your daily medication is no longer working. It might be that the air quality is worse, or you’ve been exposed to a new trigger.

Myth #4 - Asthma medication is dangerous and addictive

Some people believe you can get addicted to asthmamedication because it contains steroids. However, thecorticosteroids in asthma medicines are very different fromthe anabolic steroids bodybuilders take to build muscle, whichcan be addictive. Corticosteroids are in fact very similar to thecortisol your body produces naturally.

There have also been reports about corticosteroids stuntingchildren’s growth. In fact, the reverse is true – children withpoorly controlled asthma tend to be shorter than those whoseasthma is well controlled, and untreated asthma can delaypuberty.

Inhaled corticosteroids are effective and safe when taken at therecommended dose, and are a vital part of keeping your asthmaunder control.

Myth #5 - You only have asthma when you have trouble breathing.

Unfortunately, not having symptoms of asthma doesn’t mean that your asthma has gone away. Asthma is unpredictable, and even if you are not displaying any symptoms, you will still have underlying inflammation in your airways. This is why using preventer medication regularly is so important - it helps to reduce this inflammation and prevent an asthma attack from happening.

Get the asthma facts

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation website have a wealth of reliable, up-to-date asthma information and resources. To learn more, visit living-with-asthma.

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