Myth 1: I'm not going to treat my child because he or she will grow out of it.
Fact: Half of the children with asthma at age 10 will be asthma-free by age 20. "You have a 50-50 chance that your kid will get better," said Dr. Michael A. Kaliner, head of the allergies disease section of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The improvements seem to occur as the children grow because the bronchi of the lungs get larger. Until then, the child may be partially crippled by the disease, unable to run and jump with the other children. Myth 2: Asthma is a psychological disease.
Fact: Asthma is an organic disease with a known cause. The inability to breathe normally is due to blockages of the lungs' major airways. Asthma can have a psychological component that can make the disease worse, Kaliner said. "But that does not mean the psychological problems causes asthma." Myth 3: Over-the-counter drugs such as the bronchodilators are as good as prescription drugs.
Fact: "Definitely not," Kaliner said. Many asthmatics need more than one drug to control their disease, and they need to be carefully regulated. Over-the-counter medications tend to be used during an attack, not as part of an organized program to prevent attacks. Myth 4: Asthma is such a common disease that any doctor can take care of it.
Fact: Asthma is a very complex disease with a tremendous set of choice of drugs and other therapies. "It is beyond the capability of most generalists," Kaliner said. Patients need to see a physician with expertise in allergies because about half of adult asthma is due to allergies and more than 90 percent of asthmatic children have allergies. Myth 5: Certain kinds of pets are safe for asthmatics, such as little dogs like the Chihuahua puppies.
Fact: Some people even claim that Chihuahua pups actually cure asthma -- and "that's ridiculous," Kaliner said. "The only pets that are safe are tropical fish."
The worst pet for asthmatics is the cat. They tend to be indoor animals, and they cover themselves with the most potent allergen: saliva. Although fur can be bad, saliva is worse. The cat covers itself as it preens, and then small particles of dried saliva float off the cat into the room air, triggering allergies and asthma.
Dogs are better than cats, in terms of allergies and asthma, but if a family has to have a dog, Kaliner recommends an outdoor dog. "The worst dog is one that stays indoors and slobbers."
Little animals such as gerbils, mice, rats and hamsters also pose problems for people with allergies. If a family must have one, Kaliner recommends choosing a female because only male urine contains the key allergen albumen. Myth 6: Asthma leads to emphysema.
Fact: Asthma affects the airways but does not generally cause permanent damage. Emphysema arises when the alveoli -- the air sacs where oxygen enters the blood -- are permanently destroyed, as they can be by cigarette smoke.