Asthma Myths: 5 Misconceptions Your Patients Might Have

Woman using asthma inhaler
Woman using asthma inhaler
Despite its prevalence, many myths surround asthma. We debunk 5 common misconceptions your patients might have.

Although asthma affects more than 25 million Americans,1 many myths persist about the condition. We set the record straight on 5 misconceptions your patients might have.

Myth #1: Asthma is psychological

While psychological factors including depression and anxiety may exacerbate symptoms of asthma and make the condition more difficult to manage,2 the disease itself is not psychological. Rather, asthma is a chronic ailment characterized by narrowing and swelling in the airways. Triggers such as pollen, dust mites, respiratory infections, and air pollutants cause reactions ranging from shortness of breath and chest tightness to coughing and wheezing.3

Myth #2: Everyone with asthma experiences the same symptoms

Not only do symptoms of asthma differ from one patient to the next, but they can also vary from episode to episode in the same person. One patient might have several symptoms including cough, wheezing, and chest tightness, while another might only have shortness of breath.4

Myth #3: People with asthma shouldn’t exercise

You may have patients who are wary of exercising for fear of aggravating their symptoms. However, regular exercise has been shown to be beneficial for patients with asthma. In fact, a 2015 study in BMJ Open Respiratory Research found that patients who engaged in optimal levels of recommended physical activity were better able to control their asthma than patients who were inactive.5

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Myth #4: Asthma can’t be fatal

Fatalities due to asthma are rare, but they do happen. The good news is, the number and rate of asthma deaths per year has decreased from 15 per million in 2001 to 10 per million in 2016. In that time, the fatality rate was the highest in adults aged ≥65 years compared with other age groups.6

Myth #5: You can outgrow asthma

Asthma symptoms can differ over time or become intermittent due to changes in the body or environment. As such, it’s not uncommon for children to appear to outgrow the disease. However, as a chronic condition, there is no cure for asthma and symptoms can resurface at any time.7


  1. Diseases and conditions: asthma. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed January 19, 2017. Accessed September 12, 2019.
  2. Baiardini I, Sicuro F, Balbi F, Canonica GW, Braido F. Psychological aspects in asthma: do psychological factors affect asthma management? Asthma Res Pract. 2015;1(7).
  3. Asthma. Mayo Clinic. September 13, 2018. Accessed September 12, 2019.
  4. Asthma. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed September 12, 2019.
  5. Bacon SL, Lemiere C, Moullec G, Ninot G, Pepin V, Lavoie KL. Association between patterns of leisure time physical activity and asthma control in adult patients. BMJ Open Respir Res. 2015;2(1):e000083.
  6. Asthma as the underlying cause of death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed April 24, 2018. Accessed September 12, 2019.
  7. Outgrowing asthma? American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Accessed September 12, 2019.