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4 big myths about asthma

Posted 4/1/2018 by Kristie Ross, MD
Clinical Director, Pediatric Pulmonology and Allergy and Immunology, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Toddler holding asthma mask

Asthma affects about 25 million people in the U.S. and it’s the leading chronic disease in children. Asthma causes inflammation (swelling) in the airway, which leads to symptoms such as tightness in the chest, wheezing, trouble breathing and coughing.

“Although asthma is fairly common, there are many misconceptions about the disease, how it’s treated and how it affects a person’s day-to-day life,” says Kristie Ross, MD, Clinical Director of Pediatric Pulmonology and Allergy and Immunology at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. Here are four common myths, along with the facts, about living with this condition.

Myth #1: Your child shouldn’t exercise if he or she has asthma.

When your child has asthma, it’s important to avoid triggers, such as pollen, cigarette smoke and mold. But one thing children shouldn’t avoid is exercise. Physical activity is important for a child’s overall well-being. “If exercise causes your child’s asthma to flare up, be sure to talk with the pediatrician,” advises Dr. Ross. “He or she may prescribe a short-acting medicine that your child can inhale before exercise to prevent symptoms. Drinking plenty of water and taking some time to warm up and cool down before and after exercise can help, too. There are Olympic and professional athletes with asthma – the key is getting it under control!”

Kristie Ross, MD

Kristie Ross, MD

Myth #2: Your child only needs to take asthma medicine during an asthma attack.

There are medications called quick-relief, or “rescue,” medicines that only need to be taken during an asthma attack. However, if your child’s doctor prescribes a controller medication, be sure your child takes it as directed. Controller medicines help reduce inflammation in the airway to keep an asthma attack from happening in the first place. Most controller medicines work best if your child takes them every day, even on days he or she isn’t having symptoms.

Myth #3: Asthma only affects kids, and then they grow out of it.

Asthma often begins during childhood, but it affects people of all ages. Many people think that kids grow out of asthma, but this isn’t exactly true. Many people who have asthma as children get better as they get older, but the symptoms may worsen again in adulthood.

Myth #4: Asthma comes and goes.

Asthma is a chronic condition. Even when your child feels well, it’s still there. Dr. Ross says, “The goal with treating asthma is to control the disease so your child can go about his or her daily life with few, if any, symptoms. Work with your child’s doctor, stick to a treatment plan and make sure your child avoids triggers that can cause an asthma attack. While we don’t have a cure for asthma, working with your doctor to find the right treatment plan can help your child live a normal life with rare symptoms and flares.”

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