Many asthma patients have heard of, and often try, treatments and therapies to improve their asthma outside of their prescribed medication.
A broad range of treatments and therapies that do not use prescription medicines are currently available, including:
- Breathing technique (Buteyko or Papworth method),
- Herbal medicines
- Dietary supplements
- Ionizers and humidifiers
- Osteopathy and chiropractic manipulation
- Speleotherapy (halotherapy or salt therapy)
These are usually referred to as ‘complementary’ therapies.
In line with the GINA guidelines, the international guidelines for asthma care, the Medical Advisory Group of the Asthma Society advises that the treatment of asthma to achieve symptom control and risk reduction should include:
- Trigger avoidance
- Guided self-management.
Complementary or add on therapies should only ever be used alongside prescribed medicines and under the care of a physician.
At no time should you stop taking your prescribed asthma medication, unless your doctor advises you to. Why? Because suddenly stopping your asthma medicines (particularly controller medication) can lead to a worsening of symptoms and may put you at increased risk of having an asthma attack.
Asthma cannot be cured but it can be managed and controlled with conventional and well-researched therapies. So, if you are interested in trying one of the many complementary or alternative treatments, you should speak to your doctor or asthma nurse first.
It is really important that you do not stop taking your normal asthma medicines with these other therapies unless your doctor advises you otherwise.
If you are a parent and are thinking about trying a complementary therapy for your child, please have a look at whether the research on the use of complementary therapies has been done with children and talk to your doctor first before trying any new therapy.
Buteyko Breathing Technique
The Buteyko Breathing Technique (BBT), is a system of breathing exercises and recommendations around exercise, nutrition and sleeping aimed at reducing asthma symptoms by teaching people to breathe more slowly and gently through the nose rather than the mouth. It is widely believed that many people with asthma breathe too fast and that this can make asthma symptoms worse.
Breathing techniques may be considered as a supplement to conventional asthma management. Any ‘complementary’ therapy should be well researched first and should only be used as well as your prescribed medication or treatment, not as a replacement. Breathing methods should only be started and undertaken by asthma patients under the guidance of a doctor who will assess if it’s suitable for you.
Salt Cave Therapy
Salt Cave Therapy or Speleotherapy is the method of treatment that uses a micro-climate in some places under the surface of the Earth to treat asthma. There’s not enough scientific evidence to say whether salt therapy works to treat or manage asthma and more research is needed.
Indeed, many experts are sceptical about the effectiveness of salt cave therapy and warn that there are risks to people with asthma who use salt cave and other forms of salt therapy. Whilst some people experience short term improvements to their symptoms, salt therapies can result in long term damage caused by the airways narrowing which is very dangerous for people with asthma. It is important that you seek the advice of a doctor before trying any type of salt therapy and it should only be undertaken under medical supervision. Salt therapy should not replace your prescribed asthma treatment and you should always continue to take your medication as prescribed.
Where Can I Get More Information
Speak to one of our Asthma Specialist Nurses on the Asthma Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64