Illustration of the human lungs with little doctors looking at it

Myth: Asthma medications are habit forming, dangerous and lose their effectiveness over time.

Fact: Asthma medications are safe and essential for asthma management. They keep the disease under control, allowing patients to lead a normally active life that includes sleeping through the night and no urgent trips to the emergency room.

The chronic nature of asthma requires a specific routine of long-term medication use. This does not mean these medications are addictive. Bronchodilator medication is effective during an asthma flare. Other medication such as inhaled corticosteroids may be required daily. While multiple medications may be needed to manage asthma, no asthma medication is habit-forming.

Inhaled corticosteroids are not anabolic-type steroids associated with body bulking. Some parents are concerned about growth issues associated with certain asthma medications. Studies show children on inhaled corticosteroids reach normal height. Untreated asthma may lead to permanent lung disease affecting growth.

No asthma medication has been shown to lose its effectiveness for patients even for long-term use.

Myth: People with asthma should not exercise, play sports or participate in gym class.

Facts: People with asthma are encouraged to lead an active lifestyle including participation in sports and gym class. A fully active life keeps you and your lungs healthy. It may help with weight control – essential in managing asthma. Exercise has been shown to improve lung function.

Exercise is an asthma trigger for some patients. Your doctor may recommend using an albuterol inhaler before exercise and keeping it handy during exercise. You should also take time to warm up before physical activity and cool down afterward.

Myth: Asthma is only a childhood disease and is usually outgrown.

Fact: Asthma usually develops as a childhood disease – it affects 6.8 million children under 18 in the United States. It is rarely outgrown. Asthma usually persists into adulthood. It can appear for the first time in some adults. Your asthma may improve as your lungs get larger or your immune system adapts over time. However, family history of asthma and sensitivity to allergens as a symptom trigger still remain – as does asthma.

Myth: Asthma is not a big deal and it’s easily controlled.

Fact: About 10 people each day die from asthma, a chronic and incurable disease. Million more patients and their families are affected by it. The statistics are staggering: 25+ million Americans have asthma, amounting to $56 billion on direct costs (to doctors, hospitals, medications) and indirect costs (lost work and school days). Those numbers continue to increase annually.

All asthma is serious and any flare can turn life-threatening within seconds. Asthma is different for each person. It is affected by many factors including age, family background, race, gender, living spaces, workplace, environmental factors, immune system development and general health. Getting a correct diagnosis and developing a treatment plan are important first steps.

With the appropriate doctor, medications, education and use of management tools, asthma can be well controlled.

Myth: If you aren’t wheezing, it isn’t asthma.

Fact: Wheezing is a common symptoms of asthma. It’s whistling sound that occurs due to air passing through a narrow airway. Wheezing usually happens when breathing is difficult due to inflammation and constriction of airways.

The absence of wheezing doesn’t mean asthma is inactive. Wheezing is usually audible but sometimes it can only be heard with a stethoscope. The absence of wheezing may occur if the flare is very severe and prevents any air movement in part of the lung.

Reviewed by William Berger, MD