5 common childhood asthma myths

Facts | 12/19/2018
5 common childhood asthma myths
There are a lot of tall stories about childhood asthma that are keeping worried parents awake at night. If you have an asthmatic child read on for the most common myths and why they need busting.

1. An asthmatic child should avoid running

False. It’s not uncommon that parents are concerned about an asthma attack whenever their child plays sport. If there’s inflammation in the airways, it’s true that exercise could trigger mild symptoms, sometimes even a full-blown asthma attack. That inflammation needs to be taken care of.

Yet there should be no reason for children to avoid running games or sport if asthma is treated correctly. Overall, asthmatic children should be doing everything that any other child does.

Moreover, studies suggest that better cardiovascular condition a child can get through regular exercise, the better asthma control they can get.

2. Asthma medication is needed only when a child feels sick

False. Controlling asthma using the preventive medication is ideally a daily smart habit. This means that reliever inhaler is not needed at all or only rarely.

In the past, it was more common to treat only the symptoms of asthma with a reliever inhaler when needed. However, today asthma medicine is used as a preventative measure, even when an asthmatic child feels fine.

3. Strong emotional reactions should be avoided in children

False. Some parents worry about a child going to a birthday party, in case the excitement triggers an asthma attack.

Children with asthma should not be wrapped in cotton wool, as there’s no good reason why your child couldn’t safely experience everyday emotions. With the correct daily medication, an asthmatic child should be able to withstand the occasional meltdown or outburst as well as a child without asthma.

4. Most asthmatic children will outgrow their asthma

False. This is unfortunately not true. Asthma is for life. Even after a long pause, asthma can return without a warning. You might not experience symptoms for 20 years, then catch a bad flu at age 40 and bam your asthma is back!

But it’s not all bad news. According to the Melbourne Asthma study spanned 50 years, starting with participants at age seven and following them through their lives, at given check points, some participants were experiencing symptoms but at later points they were not. Based on this study, it’s fair to say that most of sufferers will be doing nicely throughout their adult life experiencing only occasional outbreaks.

5. Asthma medication will stunt your child’s growth

False. This remains one of the all-time childhood asthma myths, despite evidence from studies showing that inhaled corticosteroids used in treating asthma do not prevent children from reaching their normal adult height.

Thirty years ago, children with chronic asthma would often not grow to full height. Dealing with chronic inflammations would cause them to grow more slowly than children who were well. It’s only now that the medication has evolved and been widely adopted that children can grow to their correct height while enjoying a relatively normal life!

This article was compiled with expert input from Professor and Physician, Dr. Mika Mäkelä, a Helsinki-based specialist in Pediatric Allergology.


By Laurel Colless

Photo by iStock



Phelan PD, Robertson CF, Olinsky A. J Allergy Clin Immunol. (2002) The Melbourne Asthma Study: 1964-1999. Feb;109(2):189-94. Review. PMID: 11842286

Philip, J. (2014). The effects of inhaled corticosteroids on growth in children. The open respiratory medicine journal, 8, 66-73.

Westergren T, Fegran L, Nilsen T, et al (2016) Active play exercise intervention in children with asthma: a PILOT STUDY BMJ Open 2016; 6:e009721.

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