Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions, but there are still many myths and misunderstandings about it. Learn about asthma facts and myths.
Asthma myth #1: Asthma is a psychological condition.
Stress can make asthma worse, but asthma is not a psychological or mental condition. Asthma is a chronic, physical disease with several possible triggers and changes that take place within the body. A child's airway can tighten when the body overreacts to things like allergens or other triggers. This can make it difficult for them 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. These symptoms usually don't respond well to asthma treatment, since they don't have the same underlying physical cause.
Asthma myth #2: Kids with asthma can't play sports or exercise.
While it was once thought that exercise and physical activity would make asthma worse, experts recommend that kids with asthma stay physically active. 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 it contains steroids. However, the steroids in asthma inhalers work much differently than steroids taken by body builders to bulk up and they aren't addictive. Patients with asthma often use their medications daily to prevent asthma symptoms, not because they have developed an addiction. 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 his rescue medication, talk to your pediatrician about ways to manage your child's asthma better. Anytime you change your child's medication, be sure to update your Asthma Action Plan accordingly.
Asthma myth #5: Children with asthma only need asthma medication when they feel sick.
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.
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