Asthma is a chronic lung condition, which makes breathing difficult and often triggers coughing, many patients also report a whistling sound (wheezing) while breathing out and also causes shortness of breath. Inhalers are one of the most important ways through which this illness is treated. But in India, a number of stigmas are attached to the use of inhalers. In order to create awareness about them, Dr Vikas Mittal, associate director, pulmonology and sleep, Max Super Speciality Hospital in Shalimar Bagh, in a chat with The Indian Express, debunked five inhaler myths.
MYTH: Regular use of inhalers can be addictive
FACT: Asthma is a long-term disease and has no cure, hence inhalers act as a lifeline for most asthmatic patients. According to the expert, inhalers relieve patients for the short as well as for the long term but one cannot make it appear like an addiction. Using an inhaler is like continuing medications for blood pressure, diabetes, or like needing spectacles for eyes.
MYTH: Inhalers have harmful steroids
FACT: Inhalers do have oral steroids but in microgram doses (µg) i.e. 1,000 times less than milligram (mg) doses. People link steroids to its standard harmful effects like stunted growth and weak bones but it is not the same with steroids in inhalers. Considering asthma is an inflammatory disease, steroids are integral in subsiding asthmatic symptoms. Moreover, the expert stated that if steroids are not used to prevent asthma from worsening, it can affect the growth of the child and can further lead to long-term problems.
MYTH: Oral medications are more effective than inhalers
FACT: Doctor Mittal opined researches have indicated that oral medications are less effective as they take a longer time to act during an asthma attack, on the other hand, inhalers give medications directly to airways, thus they give immediate relief. “In this way, we need less dose of medications and have less side effects,” he said.
MYTH: Inhalers should only be used for severe cases
FACT: Though Asthma is a long-lasting chronic disease, it can be fully controllable, but has no cure. If not treated, Asthma can become severe and uncontrollable, hence inhalers are the mainstay treatment for asthma. They should be used regularly, even in normal cases so that they don’t turn into severe asthma.
MYTH: Asthma is curable
FACT: Asthma can neither be completely cured by inhalers nor by other recommended medications. However, the ailment is fully controllable and patients can live an absolutely normal life. The symptoms caused due to asthma might subside over a period of time and the medicines might also eventually reduce or stop, but it does not indicate that it has been cured. Patients whose asthma gets triggered after a long time because they skip medication intake, in such cases the next asthma attack can turn fatal. Therefore, one should continue taking medications (inhalers) as per the doctor’s advice only.