50% of ‘asthmatics’ don’t really have the disease, say experts

Deepak Jindal

New Delhi

When seven-year-old Deepak was rushed to a Delhi hospital a few years back with worsening asthma symptoms, doctors were puzzled. The boy had been on inhalers and even oral steroids, as suggested by a physician in his hometown, Chandigarh, for the last three years but his condition had not improved. “It turned out that the child did not suffer from asthma at all,” said pulmonologist Dr. Arup Basu, who treated Deepak at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. “The CT scan revealed he had a peanut stuck in the trachea which was causing breathing difficulties.” For three years, the boy had been administered the wrong treatment. Strange as it may sound, Deepak’s is not the only such case of misdiagnosis of asthma. TOI spoke to pulmonologists and medicine experts who said 50% of all patients labelled as asthmatics by primary-level physicians may have wheezing or coughing due to other factors, such as viral infection, allergy or tumour in the upper respiratory tract. Inhalers mustn’t be prescribed without diagnosis and confirmation of asthma. It’s linked to severe side-effects on prolonged use.

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