(BlackDoctor.org) — If you have asthma or care for someone who does, you probably already know that prescription drugs are the largest medical expense related to asthma. According to the American Lung Association, asthma meds cost $6 billion a year in the United States.
Thanks to the price tag, and maybe even the pain of keeping track of all that medicine, you may be considering trying a natural treatment to help manage your asthma.
But first, before you head to your local natural food store or herbal supplement aisle, it’s important to talk to your doctor and investigate the various alternative remedies out there and make sure that the natural remedy you’re considering is not only effective, but safe.
Does Alternative Asthma Treatment Work?
A number of people with asthma seek an alternative treatment to enhance control of their asthma symptoms.
“Many people do use alternative medicines, especially for allergic disease,” notes Anju Peters, MD, associate professor in the division of allergy at Northwestern University’s Feinburg School of Medicine and an allergy and asthma specialist in the division of allergy/immunology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
In fact, as many as 40 percent of people with an allergic disease will try a natural remedy, says Dr. Peters. “Most people use it in conjunction with traditional treatment,” she explains.
So what does the research show about natural remedies, and why are people giving them a shot? “Many of these have shown benefits as being anti-inflammatory in animals,” says Peters, but unfortunately, they haven’t necessarily been found to be effective in studies conducted on people.
While warm steam baths have often been used to help alleviate nasal congestion and airway irritation associated with asthma, Peters points out that there’s never been a study that proves that steam treatments help improve asthma symptoms. It’s important to understand that “it’s not a cure for asthma,” she says. Even so, just because the studies haven’t established a definite benefit doesn’t mean that steam baths won’t be of benefit to some people.
Peters says steam baths “may relieve some of the symptoms because it may provide moisture to the airways.” She cautions though that steam can be dangerously hot, “so in some asthmatics, it can [actually] exacerbate symptoms.”
Steam baths may help offset some symptoms, particularly nasal stuffiness, but Peters stresses that steam baths are not “a substitute for asthma medications.”