Asthma Facts or Fiction?
Most of us know someone who has asthma; it is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States.
But how much do you know about it? The facts about asthma may even surprise you.
Fiction: Older adults don't get asthma.
Fact: Even though more young people get asthma, it also affects older adults.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), asthma in seniors can be harder to diagnose and treat. Some asthma symptoms are similar to other conditions such as heart disease and emphysema. In addition, older adults often take medications that can trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma. For example, beta-blockers, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Fiction: Children outgrow asthma or asthma gets better as you get older.
Fact: Children often don't outgrow asthma. A child's asthma can get better or worse over time and some very young children with asthma may get much better as they (and their lungs) grow, but for most people, asthma is present the rest of their lives.
Some very young children have asthma symptoms that go away when they get older. Other children may have asthma symptoms that come and go over time.
Fiction: You can't be athletic if you have asthma.
Fact: Not true. Dennis Rodman and Jacki Joyner-Kersee are just two famous athletes who have asthma.
If you have asthma, you probably don't have to give up sports. Physical activity, and the conditioning that comes with it, should be part of everyone's life, including those with asthma. Asthma should not interfere with physical activity.
However, you will need to plan ahead for exercise by warming up slowly and taking medication as directed. Avoid exercising outdoors when the pollen count or ozone level is high.
Fiction: Corticosteroids are the same illegal drugs used by some athletes to perform better.
Fact: Corticosteroids are not the same drugs used by some athletes. Those are called anabolic steroids, which you may have heard of because of the serious side effects they cause.
Corticosteroids are legal medications used to help prevent asthma attacks and are safe to use. Corticosteroids come in pill, liquid and spray forms. The spray form, in particular, has a low risk of side effects. Many scientific studies have shown asthma medications to be safe over long periods of use. These medications are an important part of an Asthma Action Plan.
Fiction: The steroids used in asthma will stunt growth.
Fact: Large medical studies have shown that children using inhaled corticosteroids will eventually reach their normal height, although there may be very small, temporary delays in growth initially.
However, it has been clearly shown that untreated asthma and the resulting permanent damage to the lungs have a significant effect on reducing growth. Be sure you work with your child's health care provider and the Asthma Action Plan to treat his or her asthma in the best possible way.
Fiction: Everybody's asthma is the same.
Fact: Asthma severity can vary greatly from one person to another. Treatment for one person may not be the same as for another. Talk with your health care provider or refer to your Asthma Action Plan, and never share medications with someone else.
Fiction: Asthma is an emotional illness.
Fact: Asthma is caused by inflammation and constriction in the lungs. It is stressful to have an asthma attack, but emotions do not cause asthma.
Fiction: It's better to "tough it out" without taking asthma medication.
Fact: The lungs do not get stronger or better able to deal with asthma as a person tries to work through an attack without medication. In fact, the lung inflammation that goes along with an attack can cause permanent damage to the lungs. Always use medication according to the Asthma Action Plan. If you have questions, talk with your health care provider.