Myths about asthma have been one of the major blocks in ensuring proper diagnosis of asthma, say doctors. Happiest health spoke to doctors that firmly believed some myths about asthma must be busted. There are few facts about asthma that experts say parents should know.
Factors such as family history, allergic tendency and exposure to allergens play a major role in asthma, say doctors. While asthma has no cure it can be controlled with early diagnosis and the right treatment.
Facts about asthma
Happiest Health spoke to pulmonologists. Here are seven facts about asthma that every parent must know.
Not all children outgrow asthma
One of the lesser-known facts about asthma is that outgrowing asthma depends on several factors. A child may have allergic tendencies such as skin, eye allergies which can be seen in allergy tests, says Dr K R Bharat Kumar Reddy, pediatric pulmonologist, director, Shishuka Children’s speciality hospital, Bengaluru. In such cases a child may not outgrow asthma. The chances of outgrowing asthma are also lesser if there is family history of asthma, he says. “The point is not outgrowing asthma but how a person with a history of asthma in childhood reacts to the allergies later in life. It depends on how the lung capacity has been built. If the lung capacity has been built from an early age, then the chances of asthma is less. They may get a mild cough and not severe wheezing,” says Dr Reddy. He adds that a child’s lungs grow until the age of seven and any intervention in treatment to address asthma must be done within this stage. In most children with asthma, the symptoms show up at around three years of age.
Inhalers are safe and are not addictive
“There are no studies to show the addictive potential of inhaling steroids. Hence, there is no scientific evidence to say that they are addictive. The medicine is given because the child requires it,” says Dr Reddy. He explains with an example: You are using it because the body requires it to function. You will have to continue using it as long as the body requires it and not because you are addicted. It’s like using spectacles; you will wear it as long as you want to see properly.
“The treatment is tailor made for each asthmatic child depending on the requirement,” he said. One of the biggest myths about asthma is that inhalers become addictive, says Dr Jasani. “The bronchodilators or the inhalers that were available earlier used to get washed out of the body quickly and had to be taken multiple times. But with the newer drugs, using the inhaler once or twice is enough, as recommended by the doctor.”
Asthma is different from common cold
Asthma is underdiagnosed in most kids, says Dr Sindhura Koganti, pulmonologist, Fortis Hospital, Vadapalani, Chennai. According to her, parents often mistake the symptoms of asthma for a recurring cold. “If the parents have a history of asthma, they must be cautious as the children may also have it and watch out for the symptoms. But sometimes parents think that the symptoms could be caused due to ice creams; they don’t know the actual concept of asthma,” says Dr Koganti.
Dr Namrata Jasani, senior consultant, pulmonology, Global hospitals, Parel, Mumbai says that the frequency of common cold and cough factors in. “In toddlers and early school-age kids, if the frequency of common cold is once every two to three months, it is okay. However, if the common cold and cough is lingering frequently every month, we must check for asthma,” said Dr Jasani.
Allergen can be anything from dust to bird poop
Skin prick test, the gold standard test in allergies, can help us understand the allergen the person is sensitive to. “Most common allergens are dust mites, pollen, food allergies, cockroach, fungal mold and we test the sensitivity to different allergens,” says Dr Reddy. While allergy has no cure it can be controlled by early diagnosis, preventing exposure to the allergen and taking medication, say doctors. Air pollution is another contributing factor.
“Main treatment is prevention of triggers. Viral infection, dust, smoke, anything can be a trigger. The solution is in accepting the condition and taking treatment early,” said Dr Jasani. She adds that she comes across multiple cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is an irreversible condition, resulting due to untreated asthma.
Asthma is not a single condition
Dr Reddy adds that asthma is not a single condition, but a syndrome with different phenotypes (observable characteristics). “It is a clinical phenotype where a human body is behaving in a particular way for an allergen. One of the asthmatic triggers in children is allergy, but that’s not the only one. Viral infections are another trigger that can cause asthma. If a person has obesity, then the chance of asthma is high. Obesity is a risk factor for asthma and is a comorbidity,” said Dr Reddy. He further adds that each child is different and the phenotype and causes of asthma could be different.
Swimming can help asthmatic people to improve lung capacity
Swimming is an exercise that helps in expanding the lung capacity. Swimming increases the heart rate and breathing rate and improves breath control and stamina. Experts suggest that training children to swim improves lung capacity. Dr Sulaiman Ladhani, consultant chest physician, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai, says that swimming lessons in children can help decrease asthmatic symptoms. “The warm and humid environment in the swimming pool will keep the airways open, enhancing breathing, while exercising in cold dry weather can potentially trigger asthma,” says Dr Ladhani.