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Debunking Prevalent (and Dangerous) Asthma Myths

Woman sneezing due to pollen allergies under a blossom tree
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Asthma myths (or any myths perpetuated about chronic illness) can stop people or their caregivers seeking proper medical help. These myths aren’t just inaccurate – they can be dangerous. Today, Kerri Mackay investigates five prevalent asthma myths, and debunks every single one. Did you think these five myths were true? Think again!

I was first diagnosed with asthma in 2008. In the years since then, I’ve made it my duty to learn everything I can to advocate for myself and others living with asthma. 

And yet, despite how well-known asthma is as a condition, I’m still amazed by how much new stuff I find when researching for my articles. (And in my spare time - I often find myself going down asthma-related rabbit holes in the vast universe of Google).

How many of these asthma myths have you been told - and fully believed until now? 

5 asthma myths that need to be exposed

Myth 1: If it acts like asthma, it must be asthma

In a Canadian study about re-evaluating asthma diagnoses in adults, up to a third of people diagnosed with asthma — wait for it — don’t actually have asthma. Instead, they have other conditions that often mimic asthma symptoms!

Common “asthma mimic” culprits include:

Is your asthma not improving despite following your treatment plan? It may be time to check in with your doctor to see if another condition might be the problem.

Myth 2: You’ll probably outgrow this “childhood disease” 

It seems the verdict isn’t quite in on this one. Many of us are taught that asthma is a childhood disease and gets “outgrown” most of the time. 

In a small study investigating the caregiver’s influence over a child’s asthma management, many parents thought their child would “outgrow” asthma. Sadly, this affected how well they monitored their child’s disease and how often they sought medical help. 

I thought that if you have asthma, you’ll have asthma flare-ups throughout your life. However, I learned that symptoms can resolve for a while (known as remission) but may return later.  

Whether asthma can be “outgrown” — and stay away forever — is still a topic of debate in the medical community.

Myth 3: Everyone with asthma also has allergies 

Nonallergic or intrinsic asthma is often found in adults over 35 years old.

People with allergic asthma, however, often have nonallergic asthma triggers, too, i.e., exercise, illness, or cold/humid air.

So, although your allergy test may have come back clear, asthma can’t be ruled out. Allergy tests are diagnostic tests for allergies, not for asthma! 

Plus, many allergy tests are localized to your region. You could have allergies elsewhere in the world and not know it because you’ve not been exposed to those triggers before. 

Myth 4: All your asthma triggers affect you equally badly 

OK, so you may have known this from personal experience. Every asthma case is different, and the list of potential triggers is long and complicated. Unfortunately, learning about your triggers is a trial-and-error process.

For me, the common cold and other respiratory infections are my worst triggers. I’m also (but not as badly) triggered by cold air and moderate exercise. Beyond that, I’m sensitive to perfumes and fragrances, but their effect varies by exposure level.

(And another myth to debunk: No, people with asthma are not banned from doing exercise. Doctors often encourage physical activity when you have asthma, but you also have to know your limits).  

Myth 5: If your oxygen saturations are 95 or above, it’s not an asthma attack

When you have an asthma attack, your larger airways (the bronchi and bronchioles) constrict due to inflammation, and your lungs produce excess mucus. This, of course, makes it difficult to breathe.

However, the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs), where oxygen enters the body, aren’t affected by asthma. During a mild asthma attack, there’s still enough space for oxygenated air to enter even as the airways get constricted and swollen. As a result, you can still have normal oxygen saturation during the early stages of an asthma attack.

Bottom line: oxygen levels in the normal range (95 percent or better) may not always be the best predictor of how severe an asthma flare will be. Oxygen levels may not drop to below 95 until symptoms progress to moderate or severe.

Your symptoms can help guide you to how serious an asthma flare may be. Don’t ignore the rest of the signs simply because your oxygen levels are normal.

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen. 


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