Even though asthma is common in the United States, there are many misconceptions about the respiratory disease, an allergy/immunology expert says.
"Asthma is a serious condition that affects more than 26 million Americans -- more than 8% of the population," Dr. Todd Mahr, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said in a college news release.
"One of the biggest dangers with asthma is that so many people who have asthma think it's well-controlled, when it actually isn't," he said. "When people have good solid information about how to control their asthma and reduce symptoms, they are better able to live the kind of active lives they want."
There is no cure for asthma, but there are ways to control it that enable asthma patients to do all the things they enjoy. These therapies include medications, immunotherapy and avoiding triggers.
Some people mistakenly believe that having asthma means not being able to exercise. But exercise boosts heart and lung strength and improves the immune system. Some exercises that work particularly well for people with asthma are swimming, walking, hiking, and indoor and outdoor biking, according to Mahr.
He noted that a number of elite athletes have asthma that's well-controlled.
Many people also think that inhaled steroids used to treat asthma are the same as those used to build muscle. The steroids used to treat asthma are anti-inflammatory drugs, not hormones.
Another misconception is that asthma medications are habit-forming and dangerous. But that's not true of any asthma medications used in the United States, Mahr explained.
It's also not true that you can stop taking your asthma medications if you're feeling good. You probably feel well because those medications are working, he noted.
But, Mahr added, you should not be using quick-relief medications if your asthma is under control. Use of those medications should be limited to times when you're having trouble breathing or when preparing to exercise.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on asthma.