Asthma: Destroying the Myths

Asthma Destroying the Myths

Myth: Asthma is a psychological illness.

Fact: Asthma has physiological roots. The interplay between asthma and the emotional well being of the asthmatic exists, but the asthmatic is not psychosomatic or in any way psychologically impaired. Stress and emotional upheaval can intensify asthma symptoms. Conversely, the threat of asthma attack, and social adjustment to the condition, can induce stress — especially in children.

Myth: Owning a Chihuahua helps to alleviate asthma symptoms.

Fact: Does this seem silly? It is, but it is also testimony to the desperation experienced by the parents of asthmatics, who — at one point or another — are willing to try anything .

It is thought that this myth got started south of the border, where some children with asthma began to improve at the same time as their pet Chihuahuas developed asthma.

Chihuahuas are born with the tendency to develop respiratory difficulties, and the children’s improvement was merely coincidental.

Myth: Asthma medications are as dangerous as the disease itself.

Fact: Preventive asthma treatment saves many lives. Recent publicity on the misuse and abuse of albuterol and theophylline, and their role in asthma deaths, has created positive and negative effects.

On the negative side, some asthma patients may have been scared into discontinuing their treatment, which is a threat to their health.

On the positive side, the publicity cast light on the fact that the medications must be used as prescribed by the physician. If a medication is losing its effectiveness, the asthma patient should contact the doctor, and not take it upon himself to increase his dosage or frequency.

Myth: Holistic medicine can cure asthma naturally.

Fact: There is no cure for asthma. “Natural” treatments appeal to anyone who has ever given their children pills, mist, and liquid medications continuously to keep asthma at bay.

Some proposed “natural” asthma treatments that have been used include standing on one’s head, eating chicken livers, rubbing wheat paste or tomato paste on the chest, enemas, and sucking on peppermint candy.

Even though medical treatment of asthma may seem unnatural at times, and the medications can have side effects, medical treatment is preferable to non-treatment, which is what most “holistic cures” amount to.

Myth: Asthma isn’t a serious condition.

Fact: To quote Nancy Sander, founder of Mothers of Asthmatics, “If asthma isn’t serious anymore then we must not need oxygen to breathe.”

There is a tendency, even in medical books and journals, to make light of the threat of death due to asthma. While only one in half a million people die of asthma each year, asthma mortality is on the rise.

The sad thing is that almost all of these deaths are preventable. When a patient watches and manages his condition closely, he can tell through peak flow readings that an attack is on the way long before it happens.

Asthma death is nothing more to worry about than driving a car on the freeway. In both cases, the subject takes defensive precautions.

Myth: Children “grow out of ” asthma.

Fact: Half of all children with asthma have no symptoms by the time they reach age fifteen. But there are no guarantees, and symptoms can reappear at any age.

Parents who wait for children to grow out of asthma, rather than learn how to cope with and manage the disease, are risking their children’s health and psycho-social development in the process. This is perhaps the most dangerous myth of all.

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