Asthma is a chronic lung condition plagued by chronic misinformation. Despite the fact that nearly 25 million Americans have asthma, many myths still persist about what asthma is — or isn’t — and how it should be treated.

Asthma is serious, and it’s important to know the facts. Let’s clear the air on some of the more persistent myths about asthma.

Asthma symptoms have been linked to anxiety and depression, but asthma isn’t a psychological condition.

Asthma is the result of chronic inflammation in the lungs, which results in swelling and narrowing of the airway. This inflammation can be caused by many different factors, including genetics and exposure to factors like allergens and pollution in your environment.

Common triggers for asthma and asthma attacks include:

  • upper respiratory tract infections (colds)
  • pollution
  • pollen
  • dust
  • smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • cold air

In people with asthma, immune cells in the lungs and airway overreact to these triggers, which may cause:

  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • difficulty breathing
  • tightness in your chest

One 2019 study found evidence that anxiety may make asthma harder to manage, but there’s no doubt that asthma is a disease of the lungs, not the mind.

Asthma is often thought of as a childhood disease that you outgrow as you get older.

It’s true that asthma is common in children. In the United States, approximately 5.5 million people under age 18 have asthma.

Asthma attacks are also more common in kids. Almost 54 percent of children experience one or more asthma attacks per year, compared with 43 percent of adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But asthma usually doesn’t truly go away. Though your symptoms may change or become less frequent over time, the condition remains.

Asthma may mean you have a genetic susceptibility to hyperreactivity in the lungs or damage to airway cells resulting from chronic inflammation.

Research from 2020 suggests that in children with severe asthma, the severity of disease may decrease over time.

But even after you’ve gone long periods without symptoms, asthma symptoms can still be triggered and can be very serious. Adults die from asthma at rates five times greater than those of children, according to the CDC.

Asthma can also develop in adults who never experienced symptoms as a child. Common triggers of adult-onset asthma include:

  • allergies
  • obesity
  • exposure to toxins or irritants in the workplace (occupational asthma)

As published in a 2012 analysis, researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies established that if you have worsening asthma symptoms, inhaled corticosteroids are necessary to prevent a serious outcome.

But steroids have gotten a bad reputation. Some people worry that inhaled corticosteroids may stunt the growth of children or become addictive.

Others associate the word “steroid” with the anabolic steroids used to build muscle. Yet, the word “steroid” is used to describe many different types of chemicals based on their structure. Corticosteroids are actually similar to hormones produced in the body.

A 2015 review of more than 20 different studies found that in children who use inhaled corticosteroids for longer than 1 year, there was less than a 1-cm difference in height by the time they reached adulthood, compared with kids who didn’t use them.

This difference was primarily found in children who took high-dose inhaled corticosteroids, which are reserved for people with more severe asthma.

If left untreated, asthma itself may actually delay growth, as well as the onset of puberty.

That’s not to say that inhaled corticosteroids aren’t without their side effects. These can include:

  • sore throat
  • hoarseness
  • oral thrush (a fungal infection of the mouth)
  • nosebleeds

More severe side effects may occur with high-dose inhaled corticosteroids or incorrect use of the inhaler.

Your use of inhaled corticosteroids should be determined by a risk-benefit assessment with your healthcare provider.

Exercise is a common asthma trigger, so it’s no wonder many people believe that it’s not safe to exercise or participate in sports if you have asthma.

But asthma is no reason not to live an active lifestyle if you choose — and it may actually help manage your asthma.

In a 2015 study, people with asthma who participated in physical activity during their free time were almost 2.5 times more likely to avoid asthma flareups than those who didn’t exercise.

Exercise-based programs to improve lung health have also been found to be associated with improvements in quality of life and fewer asthma symptoms.

Obesity has been found to increase the risk for asthma. This is in part because obesity contributes to low-grade inflammation throughout the body, which can be a risk factor for asthma.

A 2020 study found that an exercise-based weight loss program improved immune system function, as measured by inflammation, in people with obesity and asthma. However, more research is needed to determine if this is associated with an improvement in asthma symptoms.

No need to overdo it, though. In a 2020 study of almost 700 Japanese adults with asthma, having a body mass index (BMI) considered overweight was associated with lower mortality than having a BMI considered normal weight.

Exercise with asthma should be part of a happy, healthy lifestyle.

Asthma is a very common condition, but there’s still a lot of misinformation about it.

Knowing the facts about asthma is very important and can mean the difference between successfully controlling your asthma or not.

If you have any questions about your asthma symptoms or treatment, be sure to start a conversation with your healthcare provider.