World Asthma Day is a great opportunity to highlight the campaigns around the world that educate people about asthma, and to recognise the 1 in 9 Australians of all ages and ethnicities who live with this condition every day. Sadly, there is a lot of false information around about this condition. Let’s look at some common misconceptions about asthma.
Is asthma just an allergic reaction?
Asthma is a long-term lung condition that is caused by sensitive airways, not normally an allergic reaction (although allergy-induced asthma does occur). People can have their asthma triggered by common allergens such as pollen, dust mites or air pollution – but other triggers can also include exercise and cold air. Each person is different.
People with asthma can’t breathe properly, right?
When the sensitive airways of someone with asthma are exposed to a range of “triggers”, the muscles around the airways tighten up and they produce more mucous, making it much harder to breathe. When this occurs, we call it an “asthma attack”. A person with asthma who is not having an attack still has sensitive airways, but most often they breathe quite normally. With medication and good management, many people with asthma are able to live normal lives.
All asthma attacks look the same, don’t they?
Most asthma attacks include a range of different symptoms like tightening of the chest, troubled breathing, coughing and wheezing – some attacks bring up mucous, some don’t. Asthma attacks can worsen over weeks or occur in minutes. Asthma attacks are often different for the same person! Even the meaning of the word “attack” can change – for some people it might mean some difficulty breathing, while in others it means hospitalisation.
Doesn’t asthma go away as you get older? Can’t it be cured?
Sadly, asthma is a life-long condition, although it often does start in childhood. There is no cure, but there are a range of medications that can help keep asthma under control. Even during a bad attack, the tightness in the airways is almost always reversible with medical attention. Each person with asthma should work with their GP and specialists to develop their own plan for managing their asthma and avoiding attacks.
There are many excellent resources that can provide more information about asthma and asthma management. If you suspect that someone might have asthma, talk to your GP. If you have already been diagnosed, your GP can discuss different management strategies that can help you to take control of your asthma symptoms.