9 Asthma Myths You Shouldn't Believe

Have You Seen These On The Internet?

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In my clinical practice patients I hear about a fair amount of what I consider to be asthma myths. Some may well be "partial truths," while others have no basis in scientific fact. Many of the popularly held beliefs about asthma I discuss here do not have enough support that your doctor would endorse the statements.

If you have strong feelings or beliefs about any of the topics I discuss here, my intention is not to disparage, make fun or chastise.

Rather, my intent is to educate about asthma in areas surrounding an issue where I believe the evidence does not support the practice or the claim is incorrect.

Inhaled Steroids Are Dangerous

Inhaled steroids are a controller medication indicated when periodic rescue inhalers are no longer appropriate for asthma control. With regular use inhaled steroids are the best way to keep mild persistent and moderate persistent asthma under control.

Some patients and parents hear “steroids” and begin immediately thinking of performance enhancing drugs. While inhaled steroids have some side effects, they are safe and effective in the treatment of asthma.

Using Your Rescue Inhaler Daily Is OK

If you or your child is using your rescue inhaler daily, it is a sign of poor control. In fact using the rescue inhaler more than twice per week should trigger some sort of intervention. It may be that you do not have an adequate dose of a controller medication or need to begin one.

Using your rescue inhaler frequently is a sign of a potential impending asthma attack.

My Young Child Should Not Have A Rescue Inhaler

I have not heard this asthma myth in some time, but it was common in my earlier years in practice. It was based originally in a lack of clinical response to rescue inhalers for the treatment of bronchiolitis.

However, while bronchiolitis causes wheezing,  the pathophysiology is different from that of asthma. Additionally, early research led medical science to believe infants and young children did not have beta receptors in the smooth muscle in their lungs. The beta receptors are where rescue medications like albuterol act. This is now known to be false and beta agonists are the primary medication used in the treatment of acute asthma symptoms.

Daycare Reduces the Risk of Recurrent Wheezing

Many parents feel some level of guilt when bringing their child to daycare and I have heard doctors in training say something like “daycare will decrease your child’s risk of asthma” when trying to comfort parents. I find this to be more like a half truth young doctors are stretching to try to lessen parental guilt.

The Hygiene hypothesis basically says that daycare attendance may reduce the incidence of asthma in school age children. It is thought that this finding is mediated through early exposure to respiratory infections.

However, to say wheezing children attending daycare are less likely to develop further asthma is probably not true. Respiratory infections are the most common trigger of wheezing in young children and children attending daycare will experience more infections compared to kids who do not attend day care. In children prone to wheezing, avoidance of daycare may lead to fewer cold and less wheezing episodes.

Food Allergy Commonly Causes Recurrent Wheezing

I find that patients and parents with recurrent wheezing are more likely to think the cause is allergy than a viral infection. I also commonly have patients and parents requesting allergy testing for their children with recurrent wheezing. However, food allergy is not commonly a cause of recurrent wheezing. Children with food allergy normally only wheeze when exposed to a particular food and would do so each time they are exposed.

Asthma Can Be Cured

Asthma is a chronic and treatable medical problem. But unlike an ear infection or an appendicitis, there is not a cure. With medication and avoidance of triggers asthma can be managed.

If I Move My Asthma Will Improve

Again this asthma myth falls into the category of a half truth. Asthma is found everywhere, but for some moving to parts of the country with less pollen, to the coast, or to the country lessens asthma symptoms. In my experience, however, the improvement is only temporary. Patients who tend to be “allergic” will develop allergies in their new environment and the symptom free period may be short lived.

You Should Avoid Pets

Lots of people with asthma have pets. I would never tell a family not to have a pet or remove a cherished animal, but there are certain choices asthmatics and their families need to make. While many people commonly believe it is the hair on the pet that causes asthma symptoms, it is more likely to be be the dander or the proteins in shedding skin, urine, feces, saliva and hair that trigger your asthma symptoms. Some simple steps like taking pets out of the bedroom, bathing your animal weekly, or removing carpet may be enough to keep your pet and keep your asthma under control.

My Child Will Outgrow Asthma

While large numbers of kids may experience declines in asthma symptoms as they get older, asthma really never goes away and can come back at anytime. Howver, the following have been associate with declining symptoms or potentially a remission of asthma:

1. A. Mart ́ınez-Gimeno. Onions, myths, beliefs, fashion and reality in asthma.Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2009;37(6):309–313
2. Asthma Australia. Milk- good or bad for asthma. Accessed August 24, 2014.
3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: August 4, 2014. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma
4. Wija AH, Smit HA, Kerkhof M et. Al. Association of consumption of products containing milk fat with reduced asthma risk in pre-school children: the PIAMA birth cohort study. Accessed August 24, 2014.
5. National Jewish Health. Accessed JAugust 24, 2014 Who Will Outgrow Asthma?

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