11 Asthma Myths Debunked

by John Bottrell Health Professional

For most of human existence the best cure for asthma was a prayer or incantation.
People believed shortness of breath, increased sputum, excessive coughing, and wheezing were all caused because some god or spirit was mad.
Yet it turns out that was just a myth.

Thanks to science, we've learned quite a bit about asthma in the past 100 years, and have been able to shed light on old myths about this disease that many people still think are true.

So here are some common myths about asthma.

  1. You will grow out of your asthma. Man, if I had a dime for every time some doctor told me this I'd be rich by now. I so looked forward to my growth spurt so I'd grow out of my asthma. Then it never happened. I'm sorry to say it, folks, but it's simply not true. Once you have asthma you have it for life. Sure, it may go into hibernation, but it's still there. Sorry, there is no cure for athma.

  2. You will become tolerant to asthma rescue medicine. If you became tolerant of medicines like Albuterol, there would be no medicines left to get rid of an asthma attack. I've taken in more Albuterol in my life than the next 100 asthmatics combined, and the medicine still works for me. I've been taking it regularly since 1985.

  3. Inhaled steroids are unsafe. The truth is, side effects of inhaled corticosteroids are almost negligible. Because you are inhaling it, you are applying the medicine directly where it's needed, as opposed to taking it in systemically. As long as you rinse your mouth after each use to eliminate any residue of the medicine in your mouth that could be swallowed, systemic steroids are proven safe.

  4. Asthmatics should avoid exercise. This is so far from the truth it's not even funny. The truth is, exercise is essential for asthmatics, and can make your heart and lungs stronger. It can make you less winded. It can increase your immune response and make you less likely to get a cold. It can make you feel better overall. It will decrease your anxiety. Most asthma experts would agree that even asthmatics with hardluck asthma should exercise. Here are tips on how to exercise when you have asthma.

  5. Asthmatics should move to dry climates. Not true at all. No matter where you move, your asthma will move with you. You may be leaving one asthma trigger, but your new location will present new ones. And some allergens, like dustmites, are ubiquitous, so you'll never get away from them no matter where you go. The good news is asthma can be controlled and prevented no matter where you live, so you don't need to make a stressful move.

  6. Asthmatics are weak. Surely asthmatics and people with allergies have their limitations, but they can still be productive, and very useful, members of society.

  7. All asthmatics should be treated the same. Every case of asthma is unique. Some mild cases require no medicine, some require few medicine, and some require a variety of treatments to gain good control. Some asthmatics struggle to gain control no matter what they do.

  8. Asthma is all in your head. Over 1,500 years ago it was perceived that asthmatics were different than other sick people. A boy that had a cut on his finger had a scar that can be seen. Asthmatics, on the other hand, were sick, but they had no obvious scars. Ancient physicians, therefore, decided that their asthma was all in their head. They were sick because they were anxious or depressed. In the 1950s this myth was debunked by science. Stress and anxiety are asthma triggers, but not all asthma is psychological.

  9. You don't need to take asthma controller medicine when you feel fine. Wrong Unless you are the lucky few, in order to keep your asthma controlled, and to prevent asthma attacks, you need to take your asthma controller medicines especially when you are feeling well. By taking your medicine every day, your lungs will be strong and prepared when you're exposed to your asthma triggers.

  10. All asthmatics wheeze during an asthma attack. Wrong again! Waiting to hear a wheeze to diagnose an asthma attack may result in prolonged suffering and even death. The truth is, many asthmatics -- myself included -- don't wheeze at all. Sometimes asthma gets so bad there's not enough air movement to cause a wheeze. So not all asthmatics wheeze.

  11. All lungs that wheeze are asthmatic. We know there are many airway diseases that cause a wheeze. For example, heart (cardiac) failure causes a loud, audible, upper airway wheeze we now refer to as a cardiac wheeze. Asthma wheezes are silent, and can only be heard with the aid of a stethoscope (with a few exceptions of course).

John Bottrell
Meet Our Writer
John Bottrell

John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).