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Asthma: dispelling 6 common misconceptions

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Asthma is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the world today with Mediclinic reporting it affects one in ten children (10%) and one in twenty adults (5%) in SA,1 and the World Health Organization reporting it currently affects 339 million people worldwide.2 Although so many people are affected by this condition, many misconceptions continue to persist. Your role is to educate and provide patients with valuable information about the condition and dispel any myths.

CHILDREN CAN OUTGROW ASTHMA

Asthma is a chronic ailment and is not something that can be outgrown. However, it is not uncommon for asthma to go into remission in some children and return later in life due to environmental issues, changes in the body, illness, and when young adults start consuming alcohol. It is imperative that patients are made aware that asthma never goes away as this will ensure they remain prepared when it does show up again.

PEOPLE WITH ASTHMA SHOULD AVOID PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

You may have patients walk into your pharmacy who are hesitant about exercising for fear of aggravating their symptoms. Some asthmatic patients suffer from exercise induced asthma. However, researchers now understand that exercise makes the heart and lungs stronger and can improve a patient’s asthma control. Exercise forms part of healthy living and patients should be encouraged to engage in regular exercise as weight loss decreases the risk of asthma and helps your patient breathe easier. The Allergy Foundation of South Africa cautioned that it’s important for patients who have trouble with exercise to see their doctor to check they are taking the right medications as their asthma is not well controlled. It’s also important to check that they are taking their medication correctly, that they are using the best possible technique when using their inhaler.3

ASTHMA CAN BE CURED

There is no cure for asthma. There are safe and effective ways for asthma patients to control this condition, allowing them to live full, active, and productive lives. Treatment includes inhalers, which either work to relieve symptoms when they occur, prevent symptoms from developing, or inhalers that do both. It is also important for patients to understand their triggers and learn to avoid them. Tablets and other treatments may also be needed if a patient’s asthma is severe.4,5

ASTHMA IS A PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITION

Some patients have been told that they are just imagining their asthma and that the condition is caused by emotional distress. This is of course false because asthma is a chronic condition and should not be viewed as a nervous disorder. However, psychological factors such as anxiety and depression may aggravate symptoms of asthma and make the condition more difficult to manage, but the disease itself is not psychological.6

ALL ASTHMA IS THE SAME

Asthma is a diverse disease where each patient experiences unique symptoms, triggers, and responds to different asthma medications. There are in fact six different kinds of asthma: adult-onset asthma, allergic asthma, asthma overlapping with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, non-allergic asthma, and occupational asthma.7,8

INHALED STEROIDS ARE DANGEROUS AND AFFECT THE GROWTH OF CHILDREN

The thought of taking steroids may scare some patients. It’s important to explain to patients that the steroids used to treat asthma are not the anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders. Asthma & Lung UK explained that the steroids found in asthma medicines are corticosteroids, which are a copy of substances the body makes naturally.9 Inhaled corticosteroid medicine is the best way to treat asthma and lower the risk of symptoms and asthma attacks. “All currently available inhaled corticosteroids result in growth suppression at conventional doses, but the growth suppressive effects are relatively short lived, after which growth reverts to pre-treatment levels,” reported Dr I J M Doull in The effect of asthma and its treatment on growth (published in Archives of Disease in Childhood 2004).10

REFERENCES
  1. https://www.mediclinicinfohub.co.za/asthma/
  2. World Health Organisation. (2017). ‘Asthma’. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/asthma
  3. https://www.allergyfoundation.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/37-asthma-myths.pdf
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/treatment/#:~:text=There's%20currently%20no%20cure%20for,if%20your%20asthma%20is%20severe.
  5. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. ‘ https://acaai.org/asthma/asthma-treatment
  6. Pulmonology Advisor. (2019). ‘Asthma Myths: 5 Misconceptions Your Patients Might Have.’ Available from : https://www.pulmonologyadvisor.com/home/topics/asthma/asthma-myths-5-misconceptions-your-patients-might-have/
  7. https://www.mibluesperspectives.com/2020/04/06/top-5-myths-about-asthma/
  8. https://www.conwaymedicalcenter.com/news/asthma-myths-stop-believing
  9. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/inhalers-medicines-treatments/common-concerns/#steroids
  10. Doull IJM The effect of asthma and its treatment on growth. Archives of Disease in Childhood 2004;89:60-63. https://adc.bmj.com/content/89/1/60

 

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