Man takes an inhaler for his asthma before runnign outside

Top 5 Myths About Asthma

More than 24 million people in the U.S. have asthma, a lifelong condition that causes the narrowing and swelling of the airways and the production of extra mucus.

Triggers like smoke, pollen, dust mites, mold spores, exercise or cold air could cause a person with asthma to have difficulty breathing, and to experience wheezing, coughing and chest tightness. This is called an asthma attack, and can be deadly if not managed correctly.

While there is no cure for asthma, it can be managed with a doctor’s help through medication and avoiding the triggers that make it difficult to breathe.

There are six different types of asthma: adult-onset asthma, allergic asthma, asthma-COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) overlap, exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, non-allergic asthma and occupational asthma. Which means what triggers an asthmatic reaction for one person may not trigger a reaction in another person.

When asthma is not well-managed, it can be expensive for the individual in terms of lost days at work and medical costs, and expensive for the health care system. The average per-person incremental medical cost of asthma was $3,266 in 2015.

Here are some common myths about asthma:

MYTH #1: People with asthma should not exercise.

FACT: Everyone needs to exercise to be healthy. People with asthma may need to take medication before exercising. The same goes for children before playing or participating in gym class: In order to keep up with their peers, keep up their energy and to prevent symptoms from developing, children may need to take their medicine first. Check with your doctor before engaging in exercise activities to make sure you have the right strategy in place to manage your asthma.

MYTH #2: Asthma medications are addictive.

FACT: Patients with asthma may always need to take medication, as it is a chronic, long-term condition. The medication itself is not addictive.

Additionally, the inhaled corticosteroids used to treat asthma are not the same as anabolic steroids that some athletes may use to build muscle. Inhaled corticosteroids do not stop children from reaching their full growth, though studies have shown there may be some delays in early growth.

MYTH #3: You only have asthma when you have trouble breathing.

FACT: Asthma does not go away when you’re not feeling symptoms. There is underlying inflammation in your airways that can be triggered by a variety of factors. As a disease, asthma is very serious and can be hard to predict. That’s why it’s important to continue to take daily medications for asthma and avoid any known triggers.

MYTH #4: Asthma symptoms are the same for everyone.

FACT: Every person has a different asthmatic reaction. While one person with asthma may only cough when having a reaction, another person may experience wheezing, chest tightness and fatigue.

MYTH #5: Children often outgrow asthma.

FACT: Asthma is a life-long disease. As children grow, their airways do too – which can sometimes cause asthma symptoms to decrease and become less serious. However, symptoms can return without warning.

As a partner with community organizations across the state, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has taken steps to address asthma rates. From funding grants in West Michigan to address housing-based asthma triggers to helping sponsor asthma screening events for children and teens, Blue Cross is doing its part to improve health care and outcomes for all.

This content has been reviewed and approved by Dr. Gina Lynem-Walker, an associate medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

This article is the seventh in a year-long series explaining how to manage chronic conditions that can be costly for families and the health care system. For more information about the series, click here.

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Photo credit: Lorado

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