The blue inhaler gives instant relief to sufferers by opening the airways.
1 YOU CAN’T DIE FROM AN ASTHMA ATTACK
Recent research by charity Asthma UK found that one in five people in the UK do not think asthma can be fatal. But in fact, three people die from asthma attacks every day.
“An asthma attack can be terrifying,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, a practising GP and clinical lead at Asthma UK.
“People say it feels like trying to breathe through a pillow or having an elephant sitting on their chest. But if you take your medication properly and avoid known asthma triggers, you are much less likely to have an asthma attack.”
The Ancient Egyptians knew that asthma existed.
2 ASTHMA IS A MODERN CONDITION
Some think asthma is a “modern” condition, particularly because of research which suggests rates have increased due to modern cleanliness, but it has been around for centuries.
“The Ancient Egyptians knew that asthma existed and treated it by drinking a perfumed mixture called kyphi,” explains Dr Whittamore.
Historical figures who are believed to have had the condition include Charles Dickens, Beethoven and John F Kennedy, inset right.
Asthma can come and go throughout someone’s lifetime.
3 YOU GROW OUT OF ASTHMA
One in 12 adults lives with asthma so it’s not correct to assume that children grow out of it. “Asthma can come and go throughout someone’s lifetime,” explains Dr Whittamore.
“Someone might become more exposed to things that trigger it, such as air pollution, or develop allergies that trigger it.
“But stress or changing hormone levels such as during puberty, pregnancy and the menopause can also affect the condition. Some people notice their asthma for the first time in adulthood.”
Paula Radcliffe has asthma.
4 HAVING ASTHMA MEANS YOU CAN’T EXERCISE
Many top athletes, including runners Paula Radcliffe and Jo Pavey, and footballer David Beckham, have asthma.
“Only a small proportion of people with asthma have what’s known as ‘exercise-induced asthma’ which means they only get symptoms with physical activity,” says Dr Whittamore.
“As long as someone’s asthma is well controlled there is no reason for them to not exercise.
“If you have asthma symptoms when you exercise, speak to your GP or nurse for advice.”
A blue reliever inhaler gives instant relief by opening up the airways, making it easier to breathe
5 YOU NEED TO TAKE YOUR INHALER ONLY WHEN YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS
“Most people with asthma are prescribed a preventer inhaler – usually brown – which should be taken every day,” explains Dr Whittamore. “It’s this preventer inhaler that could stop people having an asthma attack and save their life.
“It builds up your protection against asthma triggers over time, making you less likely to have a potentially life-threatening attack.
“When people with asthma come into contact with an asthma trigger their airways get narrower, making it more difficult to breathe and causing symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and breathlessness.
“A blue reliever inhaler gives instant relief by opening up the airways, making it easier to breathe again.
“If you need to use your reliever inhaler more than three times a week speak to your asthma nurse or GP.”
Hospitalisations for asthma have plateaued and deaths have reached their highest rate in a decade.
6 ASTHMA IS EASILY TREATED
Because it is not as high-profile as other conditions, many people may assume that those with asthma are getting the care they need.
Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Hospitalisations for asthma have plateaued and deaths have reached their highest rate in a decade.
“Many of these deaths from asthma attacks could be prevented if people with asthma get basic care from their GP or asthma nurse,” says Dr Whittamore.
“All asthma patients should get a written action plan which outlines how they can manage their asthma, an annual review to check their medicines are working and a check to ensure they are using their inhalers properly.”
Recent research reveals that in some cases having pets could actually prevent asthma.
7 PETS ARE THE MAIN CAUSE OF ASTHMA
“Many people think that pets are the big cause of asthma. All animals, including dogs and cats, produce dander, urine and saliva, which can trigger asthma but it’s not as common as people think,” says Dr Whittamore.
“New research shows that the most common asthma triggers are cold air, and colds and flu, followed by dust, air pollution, cigarette smoke and perfume.”
Recent research reveals that in some cases having pets could actually prevent people from getting asthma. This is because the “hygiene hypothesis” says exposure to a wide range of bacteria is necessary to develop the immune system early in life.
Pets can prime your immune system, triggering the production of antibodies which protect against allergies – often a trigger for asthma.
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Everyone’s asthma is different and there’s a huge variety of things that can make it worse.
8 IT’S DUE TO YOUR HOME BEING TOO CLEAN
“In recent years there has been a lot of research into the impact of 21st-century levels of cleanliness and the rise in people diagnosed with asthma,” says Dr Whittamore.
“The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ suggests children who grow up exposed to lots of different bacteria and animals – for example, growing up on a farm or having lots of pets – could prevent them from getting asthma.
“But the evidence around this is not conclusive.
“The truth is, everyone’s asthma is different and there’s a huge variety of things that can make people’s asthma worse.”
The exact cause of asthma is still unknown.
9 YOU CAN PASS ON ASTHMA TO YOUR CHILDREN
“While a family history of asthma can be a strong indicator that someone may develop the condition, the truth is, its exact cause is still unknown,” says Dr Whittamore.
“Asthma UK funds research into how we can prevent, manage or cure asthma and this includes looking at the role that genes play in causing the condition.”
There is a lot of misinformation about ways to manage and even cure asthma.
10 SALT CAN CURE ASTHMA
As with many medical conditions, alternative treatments for asthma abound. These include going to salt caves or inhaling salt through a pipe.
Other suggested therapies include taking herbal remedies or using air ionisers but Dr Whittamore warns against using these.
“There is a lot of misinformation about ways to manage and even cure asthma,” he says.
“People ask us about herbal remedies and salt therapies but there is no evidence to suggest that these will work.
“The best way for someone to treat asthma is to take their preventer medication as prescribed, use a written action plan and attend regular asthma reviews with their GP or asthma nurse.”
Visit asthma.org.uk or call 0300 222 5800 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm) for advice and guidance on managing asthma. Asthma UK funds research into a cure for the condition.