Busting Myths About Inhalers and Asthma: Here’s Why They Work
‘‘Inhalers are very addictive, they can damage the lungs of a patient,’’ says Rekha Rani, mother of an asthmatic teen named Ayush.
According to Manoj Kumar, father of an asthmatic kid named Aditya, there is no point in taking risk of using inhalers when there are tablets available in the markets for the treatment of asthma.
Just like Rekha and Manoj, many Indian parents grapple with the decision about putting their children with asthma on inhalers, a decision fuelled by misinformation and lack of knowledge.
Nearly 6 per cent of children in India live with asthma, according to the Global Asthma Report 2018.
Asthma is a respiratory condition in which your airways narrow and swell. In children it can lead to difficulty breathing, inflamed lungs, difficulty sleeping, an asthma attack can involve a trip to the hospital.
How Do Inhalers Help?
Inhalers are drug delivery systems and a large number of pulmonologists say it is the primary tool for drug delivery across all age groups.
An inhaler is a medical tool that helps to inhale drugs such as Formoterol and Budesonide in asthma patients.
Dr Saket Sharma, Founder of Jairam Respiratory Health Mission & renowned Indian pulmonologist, busts myths around inhaler use. He explains, ‘’Normally when we pop a pill, it goes to the stomach where it gets absorbed and then it reaches all the organs including lungs. This process takes a lot of time and the dose of the drug is also high in the process," he adds,
“In comparison to that, when we take an inhaler, it straight away approaches the lungs in a matter of seconds. It works in minutes, unlike pills which take a lot of time to absorb. And since, the doses are less in inhalers as compared to pills, the side effects are also minimised.’’Dr Saket Sharma
Myth One: Inhalers are Addictive
He also believes that the inhalers are designed in such a way that they have almost no side effects.
‘’You are taking inhalers because you have got symptoms. We give medications for six months to TB patients and it is managed but asthma is a different game altogether. It’s not an infection, so it doesn’t have any cure," says Dr Sharma.
"I don’t have any medication that can cure asthma, so we try to achieve control over asthma by prescribing relatable inhalers and when the control is achieved for a prolonged period, then we start reducing the medication and in some of the cases it can be stopped as well.’’
Myth 2: Inhaled Steroids are Harmful
According to Dr Sharma, the quantity of steroids in inhalers is very low.
‘’Steroids are needed for life. Our body itself makes 5-6 grams of steroids daily to run our system. When we say steroids are harmful, we are talking about oral steroids in that case, and not about inhaled steroids. The number of steroids we inhale through inhalers are very low," days Dr Sharma, adding,
"When I write medications like Foracort 400, it means that the number of steroids is just 400 micrograms which is too little because 1 milligram is 1000 micrograms and we are already aware that our body itself produces 6000 micrograms steroids daily.’’
He adds, ‘’Doses are very small and they are designed in such a way that they have very high first-pass metabolism, so the body is not at all exposed to that steroid. They get inactivated in the liver for the first time itself, even if it’s absorbed, it gets inactivated in liver.’’
Myth 3: Using Inhalers Will Change My Voice
Dr Sharma says that on very prologue use, there might be some local side effects like mild alteration in voice and drowsiness but we can overcome them by doing gargles after inhaling medication.
Another way to overcome side effects according to him is to use synchro-breathe and auto-inhalers in the place of normal inhalers.
Myth 4 - Inhalers Are the Last Resort
‘’See inhalers are not a bad element that you are saying that it’s the last resort. In fact, it’s a good thing that you are using an inhaler. Your chances of recovering are better. And as far as the question is concerned, you are very much free to use tablets and pills like for asthma treatment. It’s not that it is the last resort. The only difference is that inhalers act faster and has lesser side effects than pills,’’ says Dr Sharma.
The awareness campaigns regarding the inhalers are also gaining a lot of popularity. A pharmaceutical brand has come up with some campaigns named ‘Breath Free’, ‘Inhalers Sahi Hai’ and ‘Berok Zindagi’ where stars like Ayushman Khurana and Hiba Nawab are coming up and sharing their experiences and inspiring stories regarding asthma.
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