For many people asthma brings to mind a skinny, sickly person who has to get out his inhaler every time he has an emotional upset. The truth is anyone can have asthma, even famous athletes such as football great, Jerome Bettis and Olympic gold medalists such as swimmer, Amy VanDyke; runner, Jackie Joyner-Keree; and diver Greg Louganis.
Contrary to popular myth, asthma is not caused by emotional upset, but by inflammation and constriction of the airways (though fear and worry can worsen any medical condition).
Here are some additional myths about asthma from American Academy of Pediatrics healthychildren.org:
Myth: Asthma comes and goes.
Fact: Asthma is often an inflammatory condition that is always in the airways, even when the person is not having trouble breathing. Exposure to an asthma trigger can worsen symptoms but the underlying condition never goes away, although it can be controlled with medications and environmental control measures.
Myth: Asthma is just an annoying condition, not a real disease.
Fact: Asthma can kill if people do not get the proper treatment. Fortunately, there are several medications that can keep people with asthma healthy.
Myth: Children grow out of asthma.
Fact: Most people who have asthma are born with a tendency to the condition and keep it for life. It is true many children get much better with age, and their asthma appears to go away completely. However, many have it return in adulthood.
Unfortunately, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, many children suffer needlessly because their parents aren’t aware of the warning signs of asthma. Parents may think their child is experiencing bouts of bronchitis, frequent colds or chronic coughs. If your child experiences such symptoms on a regular basis, you should alert your pediatrician. Here are some additional signs that a call to your pediatrician is necessary:
- Wheezing (whistling or shrill rasps when breathing)
- Coughing regularly, especially at night or with exertion
- Tight feeling in the chest
- Shortness of breath
Additionally, some asthma attacks constitute a medical emergency. Your child should receive immediate medical attention if you notice he or she is:
- Feeling out of breath, even when not moving
- Trouble walking, talking, or doing normal activities
- Not feeling better after using a rescue inhaler
- Peak flow readings of less than 50% of personal best
- Bluish lips and fingernails
- Exhaustion or confusion
- The skin around your ribs looking “sucked in” (especially in children)