Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on August 30, 2012


Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA, Allergist, Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic, Atlanta, GA. Robin Hyman, RRT, AE-C, Pulmonary Education Specialist, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA.

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Video Transcript

Narrator: There are many myths about asthma and how to treat it—perhaps none more misleading than the belief that asthma is not a serious health condition.

Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA: First of all, asthma is a potentially life threatening situation when you have a severe acute attack. It closes the airways and makes people feel like they are breathing through a straw. I mean they really have difficulty getting air.

Narrator: So contrary to another myth: medication is absolutely necessary. Doctors recommend using either a rescue inhaler or nebulizer during an asthma attack. But while the first priority is to open the airways, frequent use of rescue meds could mean you and your doctor need to reevaluate your treatment.

Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA: If you were needing to use it more than twice a week, you'd be considered a persistent asthmatic. That's a patient who needs an inhaled steroid on a daily basis.

Narrator: The steroids used in inhalers for asthma are different than those abused by some athletes and are considered relatively safe when taken as directed.

Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA: The dose that they get in terms of their body is minimal, so the absorption and the effect on growth, for children, or bone metabolism in adults, uh, other hormonal functions are really very minimal with these new inhaled steroids that we have.

Narrator: So what about certain home remedies? For example, some people believe breathing in steam vapors works as well as a rescue inhaler:

Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA: No, I wouldn't recommend turning on steam. That could make your airways go into more spasm, so you do not want to be inhaling steam.

Narrator: But you could splash in a pool or even play competitive sports. Contrary to popular opinion, folks with asthma should be physically active, as long as they use proper precautions.

Robin Hyman, RRT, AE-C: The public really needs education on asthma: how to treat symptoms, what medicines we use, why we use them, what the medicines do, what triggers to stay away from

Narrator: understanding, for example, that asthma is not curable nor a condition that most people outgrow. Healthcare officials now advise combating the disease by having an asthma action plan in place…

Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA: For instance, what's the daily routine? What do you do if you start having symptoms? And then what do you do if those symptoms start getting worse?

Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.