Another 5 asthma myths - busted!

By Lisa Sayer · 16 Jun 2016

Throughout history, there have been many myths about asthma and its treatment. Pleasingly, many of them have been refuted, such as asthma 'cigarettes' or asthma being treated as a psychosomatic illness.  But there are still plenty of misconceptions that exist. Time for more myth busting!

Myth: Apple Cider Vinegar improves asthma symptoms

Vinegar has been used as a traditional folk remedy for thousands of years. It was used by Hippocrates as an antibiotic treatment and as a wound disinfectant in wartime. Raw, fermented apple cider vinegar is now touted as a treatment for a wide range of ailments that range from gastric reflux to weight loss.  Studies have been carried out investigating some of the claimed benefits, but there is no scientific evidence that vinegar will improve asthma.

If you want to use vinegar to help with your asthma, a solution of naturally fermented white vinegar is great for removing visible mould in your home.

Myth: I know how to use my inhaler, so I don’t need to use a spacer.

Anyone who takes inhaled asthma medicines should use a spacer whenever it is practical to do so. When using an inhaler on its own, a lot of the medicine ends up in mouth or stomach. This is not where its needed!  The holding chamber of a spacer ensures the optimal dose is delivered as a fine mist straight to the lungs. Make sure you also look after your spacer properly to maximise the benefits.

Myth: Salt Therapy improves asthma

Along with yoga studios and float centres, an increasing number of ‘salt rooms’ have opened around Australia in recent years. Salt therapy (also known as halotherapy)is a natural therapy where the person relaxes while fine salt particles are dispersed into the room. It's said to improve a variety of skin and respiratory conditions, including asthma. There is some anecdotal evidence available, but Lung Foundation Australia says there is no scientific evidence that salt therapy will improve asthma or other lung conditions. In considering whether to try it out, you should also be aware that salt may irritate your airways.  

As we suggest for any complementary therapies, continue to take your prescribed asthma medicines. And make sure you are having regular reviews of your treatment plan with your doctor.

Myth: I should only use my asthma inhaler when I really need it, or the medicine will stop working

GP's have reported that some patients have this belief. Yet there is no evidence that taking regular asthma treatment, as prescribed, on a long term basis will make it less effective.

Another important aspect of asthma treatment – prevention is best! Many people are over reliant on their asthma reliever medication. If you are using a lot of reliever medication your asthma may not be well controlled. It’s easy to become complacent about using your preventer medication when you feel well. But what can happen is your asthma suddenly flares up, and you start using your reliever medication more often. To stay well, you need to keep taking your preventer. Asthma that is well controlled leads to fewer symptoms and a happy, active life!

Myth: If you have asthma, you should avoid exercise

It's well known that you need to exercise your muscles to be strong, toned and flexible.  Well your lungs are no different! Exercising them on a regular basis is important in order for them to operate at their best.

Asthma can flare up during exercise, but usually in dry cold air or in the absence of a bit of preparation. You can minimise the likelihood of this happening by getting as fit as possible. It will take longer for symptoms to even start if your lungs are in good shape. We also suggest exercising in a warm, humid environment if you can.

If you have asthma symptoms after exercise, don’t worry – it’s common but manageable. If exercise seems to be a trigger, tell your doctor so you can find the treatment that works best for you. Visit here for more tips on exercising with asthma.

Is there anything else asthma related that you’d like our myth busters to investigate? Send us a message or leave a comment on this article on our Facebook page, The Asthma Experts.

Lisa Sayer
National Asthma Council Australia

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