Asthma in kids: 6 myths and facts

The spring and summer seasons bring higher pollen counts, more humidity and changes in air quality, which can trigger asthma.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions, but there are still many myths and misunderstandings about it. Learn about asthma in kids.

Asthma myth #1: Asthma is a mental condition, not physical

While stress or emotion can trigger asthma symptoms, asthma is not a psychological or mental condition. Asthma is a chronic, physical disease that occurs when airways become swollen and inflamed. A child's airway can tighten when the body reacts to certain triggers, such as allergens, smoke, exercise, cold air or stress. This physical reaction makes it difficult to breathe.

Some psychological conditions can cause asthma-like symptoms. For instance, a panic attack may cause shortness of breath or a sudden inability to breathe. However, these symptoms are not the same as asthma.

Asthma myth #2: Kids with asthma can't play sports or exercise

Experts recommend that kids with asthma stay physically active. It is a myth that exercise and physical activity makes asthma worse. Regular exercise has many health benefits. Talk to your child's doctor about what kinds of exercise are right for your child. Activities like walking, hiking and swimming are often recommended, as are team sports that require only short bursts of energy, like baseball or short-course track and field events. Your child may want to avoid sports like skiing and ice hockey, since cold air can make asthma symptoms worse. See tips for exercising with asthma.

Asthma myth #3: Asthma medication is addictive

Many people think that asthma medicine is addictive because some contain steroids. However, the steroids in some asthma inhalers work differently than steroids taken by body builders to bulk up and they aren't addictive. Patients with asthma often use quick-relief medications daily to prevent asthma symptoms, not because they have developed an addiction. Quick-relief asthma medications provide speedy relief for tightened narrow airways and other asthma symptoms. Your child's doctor can give medical advice and explain how your child's asthma medications work.

Asthma myth #4: Asthma medication becomes less effective over time

Different asthma medications work in different ways. If your child has an asthma attack, that doesn't mean that their daily medication has stopped working. It may mean that the air quality is worse that day or your child has been exposed to a new environmental trigger. However, if you notice that your child frequently needs quick-relief medication, talk to your health care provider about ways to manage your child's asthma better and be sure to update your child’s  Asthma Action Plan accordingly.

Asthma myth #5: Children with asthma only need medication when they have symptoms

Some children have mild asthma and only need medication for occasional flare-ups. Patients with persistent asthma need to manage their condition daily. If your child's Asthma Action Plan calls for daily medication, be sure to make that a part of your family routine. That maintenance medication will help your child stay healthy. It's important to treat even mild symptoms so that they don't get worse.

Asthma myth #6: Everyone outgrows childhood asthma

Some kids' asthma gets better or seems to disappear altogether as they grow older. Doctors don't completely understand why this happens, but they know it doesn't always mean the asthma is gone forever. Sometimes kids will seem to have "outgrown" their asthma, but symptoms return in young adulthood. The lesson: Never assume that your child doesn't need asthma treatment anymore. If your child's symptoms change or get better over time, talk with the doctor about updating your child's Asthma Action Plan.

Learn more

Children's Health℠ offers care for the entire spectrum of asthma, from low-risk to high-risk services. Learn more about our asthma programs and services and how we can help manage your child’s asthma.

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