I remember vividly when a close family member was hit by an asthma attack that was exacerbated by dust and mold in a large arena filled with horses. When we bought the tickets, we didn’t think about how a simple show could lead to having to call emergency services.
She later told us that she sincerely believed she might die.
As a child, the idea that you could be robbed of your breath in an instant was new to me. I knew my family member had asthma, but I hadn’t before grasped the seriousness of this common condition. Now that I recognize the dangers, I make sure to get a flu shot every year to help my family member avoid seasonal lung issues and I make sure to ask her if she has her inhaler before long trips.
When I set out to write this article, many people in our community who live with asthma shared stories that resonated with my own experience. Joyce, who responded to our story request, had a younger cousin die from an asthma attack when she was just 29 years old and says, “That tragedy has haunted my life, and spurred me to seek help [for my own asthma] earlier rather than later.”
Others describe waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air and the fear of being stuck in big crowds with no escape plan or help.
Candy said: “When my rescue inhaler won’t help, I start to feel panicky, and I know I need to go to the ER. I start feeling anxiety, and like someone is sitting on my chest. I can’t breathe. I feel smothered.”
Asthma is very common. 1 in 13 people has it. Because of this, it’s often easy to forget how serious it really is. That’s why we asked folks living with asthma how it impacts their daily life and what we can do to help.
“Sometimes I dream about running.”
According to a study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 97% of those surveyed reported that asthma limits their everyday activities. Many people in our community echoed this sentiment. Donna, who retired from her career after a lengthy absence, says, “it is hard to care for my family the way I want to.”
Currently, there is no cure for asthma. At best, symptoms can be managed or controlled by avoiding or limiting triggers. Here’s how some people who responded to our survey are impacted by common triggers:
“I do not allow carpets in my main living area, or bedrooms. I use cotton, acrylic, and leather for clothing & upholstery. I use a Rainbow Vacuum which catches the dust particles in water. I always carry an Albuterol inhaler.” – Joyce
“I need help cleaning the house because the chemicals bother me too much.” – Anon
“I make everyone in my family get a flu shot so our mom doesn’t get sick. I’m terrified she won’t be able to fight a lung infection as she gets older.” – Anon
“Although I’m still a runner there are many times throughout the year where my asthma has prevented me from running for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. ” – Anon
“I can’t be outside when it’s really cold, I can’t be outside when it’s really humid. I spend a lot of time indoors to avoid triggers.” – Jodi
“Stress triggers my asthma, at times I’m exhausted from just trying to manage my symptoms.” – Jodi
“This problem is far from solved.”
Everyone has heard of asthma but the awareness is just one small step towards solving a much bigger problems. The seriousness of moderate to severe asthma can not be understated. People still need help, the condition needs better funding, and complacency amongst healthcare professionals is considered an issue by many.
Here’s what some had to say on the subject:
“The luckiest patients are diagnosed early, receive meds to ease symptoms, get specific help to prepare the home by eliminating triggers, including surroundings and foods”- Joyce
“[We should] implement national healthcare so that people’s insurance doesn’t determine whether they can afford inhalers and other treatments.
Smoking cessation classes would help a lot of patients who don’t believe that they can quit.
With hospitals cutting back on staff, it is difficult to spend enough time with a patient who may reveal during a casual conversation or during a treatment that there is an occupational or environmental reason for exacerbations. Short staffing is literally killing us.” – Barbara
“I want to be heard by doctors. I want them to hear me when I say I know something is not right. ” – Jodi
Chances are you or someone you know lives with asthma. Leave a comment with how it’s impacted your life and don’t forget to sign up to hear about future opportunities to share your story.