Today's asthma pitfalls: Are you at risk?

A major problem facing asthma treatment today, says Dr. Louis-Philippe Boulet, Professor of Medicine at Laval University, is that treatments aren't being used properly. Although we have many excellent therapies for asthma, people simply aren't getting the most out of their treatment.

Sometimes, people put up with poor asthma control because they don't realize how well-controlled their asthma can be. They may think that since they have this condition, they just have to live with the symptoms. Ideally, your asthma treatment should control your asthma to the point where it does not interrupt your daily activities or wake you up at night. You shouldn't have daytime symptoms or need your reliever medication more than twice a week.

But many people do not have this level of asthma control. Often, this is because of some common concerns and misconceptions about asthma treatment, such as the following:

Taking my medication regularly will make it less effective. Many people under-dose themselves because they fear their medication will stop working if they use it regularly. In fact, the opposite is true - if you take only a fraction of the medication that you need, your asthma will get worse and you'll end up needing more medication later.

I'm worried about side effects. It's important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to get the facts about what side effects to expect, how likely they are to occur (many are quite rare), and what you should do if they happen. This will help you put side effects into perspective.

I'm worried about changes in treatment. Sometimes, your doctor may suggest changes to your asthma treatment plan. This may be done to improve your asthma control (e.g., adding a medication) or to make your plan simpler or more convenient (e.g., switching to a combination product). Whatever the reason, it's not unusual to have questions or concerns about the changes. Talking things out with your doctor can help you find a treatment that works for you and get more comfortable with using your new treatment.

Is my asthma condition that serious? For some people, ignoring the signs of losing their asthma control can lead to very serious consequences. Talk to your doctor about the potential dangers of not following your doctor's advice.

Do any of these asthma pitfalls sound familiar? If so, discuss your concerns and misconceptions with your doctor. In general, Dr. Boulet has found that most people are quite reassured by what they learn when they talk to their doctor about their concerns.

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