As a chronic lung disease, asthma affects millions of people of all ages across the world.
In Turkey, according to last year's figures, there are around 5 million asthma patients, over 1.5 million of which are children. High smoking rates in the country are thought to be fueling the rise in these numbers, with experts warning the nation about negative outcomes.
From shortness of breath, wheezing and the feeling of pressure in the chest to dry cough – the symptoms of asthma can be very severe or sometimes minor. The condition causes airways to get inflamed and narrow, making it hard to breathe, which naturally causes a serious decrease in the quality of life.
The fact that asthma is not taken seriously or intervened early negatively impacts the treatment and outcome of the disease, said Adile Berna Dursun, a chest diseases and adult allergies specialist at Memorial Hospital in Ankara.
Despite asthma being one of the common diseases in society, misconceptions and myths abound, causing delay or disruptions to the treatment of the condition. This also negatively affects the work, school performance and social lives of patients, Dursun added.
As this year's World Asthma Day theme is “Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions,” Dursun shared the 10 most common misconceptions about the disease:
One of the most common myths believed about asthma is that it is seen only in childhood and will not occur again. However, asthma is a chronic disease that can occur and reoccur in childhood, infancy, adolescence, middle age or adulthood.
Allergies and asthma can be confused ailments. An allergy is an immune response we create against substances that do not belong to our body. Only some patients have an asthma response to allergies. There is also non-allergic asthma. Three-quarters of childhood asthmatics are the allergic type. As the age progresses, the rate of allergic asthma decreases by half. On the other hand, if the individual is obese and smokes, such a clear distinction cannot be made.
Asthma is not a contagious disease, it is a non-microbial inflammatory condition. Asthma only affects the individual themselves.
While there have been some studies proving the effect of pollution, especially in big cities, on asthma patients, it is a disease that also has a genetic basis. Having someone in your family with asthma increases the likelihood of your children having asthma too. If one of the parents has the disease, there is a 30-35% chance that the child will get it.
Asthma patients can do sports. In fact, asthma patients should be encouraged to exercise and be active. Doing sports is necessary for both physical and mental well-being and strengthens muscles. Only winter sports, deep-sea diving and sports such as parachuting are not generally recommended for people with asthma.
Asthma patients tend to stop their medication immediately during pregnancy. On the contrary, asthma medications should never be stopped during pregnancy. Discontinuation of the drug may lead to the worsening of asthma and breathing problems that may cause the baby to suffer from a lack of oxygen, leading to anomalies such as developmental delays, premature birth, low birth weight and the non-development of lungs. There are asthma medications that can be used safely during pregnancy. During this period, expectant mothers should stay in contact with their physicians doing follow-ups on their asthma.
Expectant mothers with asthma do not necessarily have to give birth by cesarean. Pregnant women with asthma can have a natural childbirth. The type of delivery will be up to the patient and the attending physician.
Just as medications should not be abruptly stopped during pregnancy if there are no complications, they also should not be stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially without prior consent from a doctor. Asthma patients should continue to take their medications regularly. Although it is known that asthma is not a risk factor in terms of getting the coronavirus, according to a year's worth of data on the pandemic, it should be kept in mind that those whose asthma is not under control and do not take their medications regularly may have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and have more severe outcomes.
There is a fear of cortisone among the public. Most of the time, asthma treatment starts with a spray through an inhaler. The device helps to administer the medication in very small doses, most of which contains cortisone. Commonly associated side effects such as weight gain, cataracts and an increase in appetite are not observed in those using their medications properly and in the frequency prescribed. However, improper use of an inhaler may cause hoarseness and thrush in the mouth.
Since it is a chronic disease, asthma patients need to receive continuous treatment, but that does not make them addicted.
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