In these unprecedented times, the burden of lung diseases has increased manifold. As we get hit by the second wave, citizens are also getting hit by a great deal of misinformation around lung health. This is especially true for asthma where in there are a lot of misconceptions. This World Asthma Day let us dispel myths and fears regarding asthma and encourage those affected by this condition to live a healthy life. The Global Burden of Disease Report: “In India, around 93 Million people suffer from chronic respiratory diseases; out of this, around 37 million are Asthmatics. India contributes to only 11.1% of the global asthma burden; however, it accounts for over 42% of all global asthma deaths making it the asthma capital of the world”. Talking about Asthma, Dr. Asok Sengupta, Consultant Pulmonologist, Apollo Hospital, explained “Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder of the lungs in which there is inflammation (swelling) of the airways in the lungs. Due to this inflammation, the airways are narrowed, and the lungs become vulnerable to various allergens which act as triggers for an asthma attack. Dust, cold, pollen, furry pets, viruses air pollutants, and even emotional agitation act as triggers for an asthma attack. These attacks can be prevented via inhalation therapy which requires long term medication. The misconceptions that these medications are addictive are wrong and we need to counter them with right awareness on asthma.” Although asthma is not curable, it is possible to gain control over it and lead a normal active life. Here the correct treatment and adherence to asthma management is crucial. GINA guidelines recommend inhalation therapy as the best and safest way to control asthma as it reaches your lungs directly and starts acting immediately. Highlighting the importance of inhalers, Dr. Asok Sengupta, Consultant Pulmonologist, Apollo Hospital, points out that “Due to its chronic nature, asthma requires long term treatment and inhalers play a predominant part in leading a healthy life with asthma. Many patients frequently under utilise their medications or use their inhalers incorrectly, which at times cause them to discontinue treatment means stopping the very thing that is keeping the patient fit and healthy. Patients should always consult their doctor on asthma management and the use of inhalers. It should not be stopped without consultation.” Doctors list down the myths they encounter in their day to day practice and emphasize that this World Asthma Day we need to together uncover the misconception around asthma and inhalers.
Myth #1: Everyone with asthma experiences the same symptoms
Fact-Check: Asthma symptoms vary from person to person and it is important to watch them carefully for a correct diagnosis by the doctor.Myth#2: Children outgrow their asthma
Fact-check: Asthma symptoms may improve with age, but it’s a lifelong condition. As a chronic condition, there is no cure for asthma and symptoms can resurface at anytime.
Myth #3: Asthma can’t be fatal
Fact-Check: Lack of adherence can lead to worsening of the situation. Stopping your inhalers without consulting doctors can be dangerous.
Myth#4: Asthma is contagious
Fact-Check: Asthma can be caused by both hereditary and environmental factors. It is not contagious.
Myth#5: Asthma is old age disease
Fact-Check: Asthma can affect people of any age
Myth#6: It’s not safe for people with asthma to exercise
Fact-check: Asthma is no reason to lead an inactive life. Many doctors encourage patients to be active. Many sports personalities have asthma and still lead an active life.
Myth#7: Inhalers are addictive
Fact-check: Inhalers are NOT addictive, and they have been recognized and widely accepted as the mainstay of asthma management.
Myth#8: No symptoms mean no asthma
Fact-Check: symptom-free is NOT asthma free! Discontinuation of the medication may result in aggravation of the disease and chances are that symptoms may flare up anytime.
While encouraging an increased dialogue on the management of asthma lets us mark World Asthma Day to directly resonate with an endeavour of not just enabling asthmatics with correct information, but by educating general public to create a support system for asthmatics. Ongoing education is of paramount importance in chronic diseases like asthma. It is always advisable to consult a doctor.