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World Asthma Day 2023: Expert Busts 5 Myths Around Asthma

World Asthma Day is observed on first Tuesday of every May. This year the day falls on May 2.

World Asthma Day 2023: Expert Busts 5 Myths Around Asthma

World asthma day tries to create awareness around the condition

Bronchial asthma, is a very common respiratory problem affecting both children and adults. It is estimated that 3-5 percent of the Indian population suffer from asthma. It means, there are around 4 crore asthmatics in India. Despite being a common health problem, it is often misunderstood and feared. Asthma is a disease which can be completely controlled and people with asthma can lead a normal life if managed appropriately. In this article, we shall break the common myths around asthma.

World Asthma Day 2023: Here are some common myths around asthma

1. Myth: Once diagnosed, people with asthma won't be able to lead a normal life

Asthma is a disease which when diagnosed correctly and treated appropriately can be well-controlled. People with asthma can lead a normal and an active life. It is indeed sad that there is still social stigma attached to the disease. There is infact nothing stigmatizing in asthma as it is a disease which does not spread from person to person, and there are very effective medicines which will help people lead a normal life.

2. Myth: You have to use medicines forever

People diagnosed with asthma are given medicines based on the frequency of symptoms. Not all asthmatics would require life-long medicines. Those who have symptoms only during a particular season (seasonal asthma) are given medicines only during that particular season. If a person has mild asthma, has symptoms very occasionally (around two to four times a month), he/she can just take inhalers when their symptoms occur. However, people with asthma in whom the symptoms are more frequent, inhalers have to be taken regularly and for longer durations to keep the disease under control.

3. Myth: Wheezing is the only symptom of asthma

Symptoms of asthma can vary between individuals. Common symptoms of asthma include cough, sputum production, breathlessness, chest heaviness and wheezing (whistling sound while breathing in or out). People with asthma may have one or more of the above symptoms, and need not have all the symptoms. While wheezing is one of the common symptoms of asthma, not all asthmatics have wheeze. There is infact a subset of individuals with "Cough-variant asthma", where they only have cough, but do not have wheeze or breathlessness.

4. Myth: Inhalers are addictive and cause side effects

Inhalers are the treatment of choice for asthma and are to be prescribed for everyone with asthma. There are several misconceptions about inhalers.

When taken correctly, inhalers are in fact safer than tablets/syrups for asthma. When a medicine is taken as a tablet/syrup, it is first absorbed from the intestines and reaches the blood. From the blood, the medicine is distributed to various parts of the body, and lungs get a very small percentage (<10%) of the medicine which is actually ingested. In addition, a significant proportion of the medicine reaches other organs, and this leads to unnecessary side effects. When the same medicine is inhaled, it directly reaches the airways. A large percentage of the drug (upto 50%) reaches the airways. Also, the systemic side effects are also minimal. Further, there is nothing addictive in inhalers and people do not get addicted to inhalers.

It is important to understand that the technique of using an inhaler is very important. Proper inhalation technique has to be explained and demonstrated to patients. When inhalers are used incorrectly, side effects can occur.

5. Myth: Over the counter nutritional supplements/ non-allopathic medicines can cure asthma

Asthma is a disease which can be controlled, but cannot be cured in a vast majority of people. Nutritional supplements and non-allopathic forms of medicine also cannot cure the disease. In their search for a permanent cure, effective medicines which control the disease are often stopped. It is best to consider asthma as a disease which can be very well controlled, not cured. Combination of lifestyle changes and inhaled medicines will control asthma in a vast majority of patients.

Yoga, meditation, daily exercise/walking and weight reduction are the lifestyle changes which help in improving the symptoms of asthma. These lifestyle changes complement but do not replace the inhalers.

(Dr. V Nagarjuna Maturu, Senior Consultant, Clinical and Interventional Pulmonology, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad)

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