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In the UK some 5.4 million people suffer from asthma, meaning that this disease affects one in every five households. With the NHS spending approximately £1 billion per year caring for asthma patients and, given that on average three people per day die from complications caused by asthma, it is clear that this is an issue we should be educated and informed about.
As the saying goes, “forewarned is forearmed”, therefore read on to bust the myths and discover the truth about asthma – you never know, what you learn may just save a life.
Myth 1: Children Can Outgrow Asthma
As people age, it is sometimes the case that they report a vast improvement or even the complete disappearance of symptoms. This makes some think they are cured, which is thought to be due to the growth in lung capacity or a decrease in sensitivity to allergens that provoke an attack.
Medics however are united in saying that asthma is, and always will be, incurable. Indeed, many people may no longer suffer from active symptoms but this doesn’t mean that any damage to the lungs isn’t still lying dormant. It’s possible for it to reoccur when the body is more vulnerable, such as during bouts of illness. It is important therefore to understand asthma can return, even after years of no complications.
Myth 2: People With Asthma Cannot Take Part In Exercise
One of the greatest myths surrounding asthma sufferers is that they cannot take part in sport: this is completely, 100% untrue. In fact scientists have discovered that putting a small amount of strain on the lungs actually strengthens the muscles used for breathing, making the patient fitter and healthier. According to the American Academy of Allergy, 20% of elite athletes have asthma, including world record marathon runner Paula Radcliffe. So clearly it doesn’t necessarily have to hold you back!
Having said this, some forms of exercise can affect individuals negatively, so you must watch out for any symptoms which occur during periods of exertion. Lastly, it is not recommended to scuba dive, as the compressed air creates resistance in the lungs, potentially initiating an attack.
Myth 3: Inhalers Are Addictive So You Should Try To Self-Medicate
Various scientific studies have not only shown that there is no risk of patients becoming immune to medication, but also that there is no correlation between inhaler usage and levels of addiction to the product. Just because you take your inhaler daily does not mean that you will become dependent on it, just as no withdrawals would occur when you stop taking it.
What is absolutely not recommended by medics however is the adage that “it’s better to tough it out”. Not only is it dangerous if you refuse to use medication when necessary, you could cause permanent damage should you attempt to ‘strengthen’ your lungs by working through an attack alone.
Myth 4: An Attack Always Comes On Suddenly And Becomes Severe Quickly
In fact, the exact opposite is often true. Most attacks develop slowly, with symptoms appearing in the few days before the peak. Signs of a building attack can include slight breathlessness and wheezing, tightness in the chest and a general sense of being unwell or feeling weak. Paying attention and listening to your body, and medicating if necessary, can help avoid major attacks and even save a life.
So there it is: the most common asthma myths, and the honest truth that lies behind them, according to the experts. Asthma can be a scary disease, especially because it affects one of the vital functions to human life but, with proper vigilance and being educated about the affliction, you can not only control it, but also should be able to enjoy a completely normal lifestyle.
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Jade Douglas is a language enthusiast, interested in travel and blogging about different cultures. She also takes a great interest in issues that affect populations, and the societies they inhabit. She recommends Dr Fox.