UAE: Understanding asthma can help dismiss misconceptions, say doctors

In the UAE, the prevalence of asthma is relatively high as approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the adult population suffers from the disease


Angel Tesorero

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Published: Sun 21 May 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 21 May 2023, 12:25 PM

Asthma is infectious. It is a childhood disease that one can outgrow as they age. Asthmatics should not exercise. Asthma is only controllable with high dose steroids. These are some misconceptions doctors would like to correct to effectively control asthma.

In the UAE, the prevalence of asthma is relatively high – approximately 10 to 15 per cent of the adult population has asthma. It is even higher among children (20-25 per cent among school-aged children).

Dr Gopal Chawla, pulmonologist at NMC Specialty Hospital - Dubai Investments Park, told Khaleej Times that each week, 3-5 new asthmatics are being diagnosed and there has been a recent surge in asthma patients who usually present with chronic cough which is not settling despite a course of antibiotics and anti-allergics.

“Many patients are the ones who had history of childhood asthma but it got settled for a while and now there has been resurgence,” he added.

Correcting misconceptions

Dr Chawla said there are several misconceptions about asthma that can be harmful and affect proper treatment and management of the disease.

Dr Gopal Chawla
Dr Gopal Chawla

“These include the belief among people that asthma is a childhood disease; individuals will grow out of it as they age; it is infectious; asthma sufferers should not exercise; and it is only controllable with high dose steroids,” he listed.

Dr Chawla clarified: “Asthma can occur at any age – in children, adolescents, adults and the elderly. It is not infectious. But viral respiratory infections such as common cold and flu can trigger asthma attacks.


“In children, asthma is frequently associated with allergy, but asthma which starts in adulthood is less often allergic. When asthma is well controlled, the patients are able to exercise and even perform the top sport. Asthma is most often controllable with low dose inhaled steroids and bronchodilators,” he continued.

Understanding asthma

Dr Hassan Aref Shabanah, consultant pulmonology at Saudi German Hospital Ajman, noted: “Asthma is a chronic airway disease that is a long-term condition affecting both children and adults.

“The air passages in the lungs become narrowed due to inflammation in its lining (mucosa) and tightening of the muscles around the small airways. This causes asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

Dr Hassan Aref Shabanah
Dr Hassan Aref Shabanah

“There are several causes of asthma, including exposure to allergens and repeated infections, obesity, smoking and being genetically predisposed. It can also be triggered by exercise, cold air, dust, smoke and even psychological disturbances,” he added.

Controlling asthma

Dr Shabanah pointed out asthma varies in severity and its attacks – from mild intermittent disease to persistent and severe. Asthma can cause long-term damage to the lungs, leading to poor lung function. This can result in decreased oxygen intake and reduced exercise tolerance and sleep disturbances.

Asthma can be controlled with proper treatment and management, noted Dr Shabanah, adding: “There is currently no cure for asthma, but there are many effective treatments available that can help to control the symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.”

Inhalers are the most common form of asthma medication, and they work by delivering medication directly to the lungs to help reduce inflammation and open up the airways. There are also medications that prevent symptoms and reduce airway inflammation.

Dr Shabanah advised: “It is important for people with asthma to work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a personalised asthma management plan that includes medication, monitoring, and self-care. With proper treatment and management, most people with asthma can lead normal, active lives.”

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