asthma_myths.jpgAsthma is, now more than ever, a household word. You probably know someone—a friend, a relative, or a colleague—who has asthma. You may have seen witnessed or even experienced asthma attacks, characterized by wheezing, gasping for breath, and coughing. Somehow, asthma has become a medical monster you can’t run away from, popping in and out of your life at various times.

But do you know as much about asthma as you ought to? Here’s a list of five asthma-related statements. Try to distinguish myth from reality.

1. Asthma is predominantly a heart problem.
2. Only a few Filipinos are affected by asthma.
3. Asthma only affects children.
4. Genetics is the only cause for asthma.
5. There’s only one specific treatment for asthma.

Done? Did you think any of the items was true? Well, if you did, you’d be wrong, since all the statements above are fictitious. Find out more on each statement by reading on.

Myth #1: Asthma is predominantly a heart problem.

While asthma involves symptoms that mimic heart problems, such as difficulty in breathing, it is not caused by an abnormality in the heart. In fact, for some of these symptoms, you might even say that heart problems mimic respiratory ones like asthma. Although there are cases in which asthma patients develop heart problems, that doesn’t make the condition cardiovascular in itself; asthma is a respiratory condition. It is an inflammation of the lungs’ airways—the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs, making them hypersensitive to various substances that are breathed in. Asthma symptoms include breathlessness, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness, particularly at night.

Myth #2: Only a few Filipinos are affected by asthma.

Asthma is a serious condition, one that affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide. In the Philippines, around 5.5 million individuals have asthma. Since there are 92.23 million Filipinos, that means that around 16 to 17 percent of all Filipinos suffer from it—that’s around one in six Pinoys! So it’s not that rare to come across a friend or a family relative who has asthma.  In fact, having asthma presents a host of problems. Besides limiting physical activities, asthma also burdens patients socially and economically. For one thing, treatment and maintenance is rather costly, and studies reveal that asthma is the major cause of absence from work in various countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States.  

Myth #3: Asthma only affects children.

Although it is wise to monitor children for asthma while they’re young, the condition doesn’t stop there. Adults can also develop asthma too. According to, adult-onset asthma is a term for individuals older than 20 who are diagnosed with the said condition. In fact, you can get asthma from simply doing your job (coined as occupational asthma) since particular substances found in your workplace may contribute to the development of asthma. For example, prolonged exposure to some types of dust may cause you to develop asthma, even if they didn’t manifest symptoms when they were children.  

However, this is not to say that asthma isn't common in children—quite the opposite, in fact. If you’re a parent and your child is asthmatic, you may want to check out the Smart Parenting article on keeping your child’s asthma attacks under control.

Myth #4: Genetics is the only cause for asthma.

Although genetics do play a role in acquiring asthma, studies have shown that it is not that simple. The interplay of various genes may lead to the development of asthma, but it may differ from various ethnic groups. In fact, there are different factors that contribute to acquiring asthma. As mentioned earlier, there’s genetics. Obesity, allergens, occupational agents (like flour, wood dust, coffee bean dust, pine resin, poultry mites, droppings and feathers), tobacco smoke, pollution, a diet that’s high on processed foods and low in antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, and infections during infancy such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and parainfluenza virus)—all these can contribute to the development of asthma.

Myth #5: There’s only one specific treatment for asthma.

As you may have noticed, asthma is a rather tricky condition; it involves a lot of factors and has several consequences as well. However, there are various approaches to treating asthma. Medication can be delivered either orally, by inhalation, or through injection. Most doctors prefer to prescribe inhaled medication, as the drugs are administered directly into the inflamed airways. Patients usually have two sets of medication—controllers, which are taken on a long-term basis to keep asthma at bay, often referred to as maintenance medication; and relievers, quick-acting emergency medicines that give immediate relief.  

Those interested in alternative treatments may opt for breathing exercises, herbal remedies (herbs like Butterbur, Dried ivy, Ginkgo extract, Tylophora indica, French maritime pine bark extract [Pycnogenol ], Indian frankincense [Boswellia serrata], and Choline show promise in relieving asthma symptoms), acupuncture, even massage and chiropractic treatment.  However, it's imperative that you consult with your doctor before trying out alternative remedies to make sure none of them will react with your current medication. Alternative treatments have not been validated, conventionally speaking, and although it aims for a more holistic approach, it’s still a good idea to think twice—and thrice and then again—before trying alternative medicine.

(Photo by Ocs Alvarez)
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