Happy Asthma Awareness Month!
Did you know that May is Asthma Awareness month? Do you have asthma or know family or friends who have it? Yes, I have asthma but I try not to let it break me and do everything I can to crush (or at least limit) asthma. We had an #AsthmaChat earlier this month on Twitter if you are interested. It’s archived for you to read.
In 1980, I was camping with my family in Iowa. We had a campfire, I think I must have inhaled too much campfire smoke. Anyway, in the middle of the night, I suddenly woke up with labored breathing, wheezing, coughing, gasping for air. I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t know why. I ran to tell my parents. They rushed me to the hospital. It was an asthma attack, my first–but not my last–triggered we think by the campfire smoke. The hospital kept me there overnight in an oxygen tent. I remember writing notes to my family on the inside of the oxygen tent. It seriously disrupted and ruined our vacation.
Doctors suspected I had either asthma or bronchitis. With some testing and further exploration, we received the asthma/asthmatic bronchitis diagnosis from a specialist. That dramatically changed my life. Suddenly I was on medication, receiving allergy shots, having to limit my activity level, avoiding allergens and other irritants, and generally just trying to adjust my life and my expectations for unlimited activities and fun.
Within a few years, things were balanced and I went back and forth between doing well with asthma and struggling with it at times.
Finally with my father and brothers’ urging, I began running more. We men would go running together. At first it was really hard, sometimes my lungs would not cooperate with my will to run. But I learned that the more I did run, the more asthma seem to come under control (with a few rare exceptions). But I knew I had to take it seriously, monitor my VO2 capacity with a peak flow meter, check pollen and mold counts for risk, avoid smoke of all types (especially campfires but also cigarette smoke was a big problem), and adjust my exercise/activity level when necessary. My lung condition moved me towards distance running (I could run slower). Finally, as I ran marathons, I knew I was on my way to hopefully crushing asthma.
Did you know that asthma (and allergies) are frequently hereditary? There is a strong family connection to it for me.
A few tips for you about asthma from me: First, take it seriously but the diagnosis is not the end of the world. You can still be active as an asthmatic. Secondly, please don’t joke about asthma. It’s not funny to asthmatics, nor to their families/friends. It’s a serious disease/illness. Finally, it is possible to live a fairly normal life even with asthma but make a list of your allergens/triggers: 1) pollen; 2) dust 3) mold; 4) food allergies if any that trigger symptoms; and 5)air quality index (AQI) which monitors smoke and other irritants in the air that can trigger symptoms for asthmatics and people with other lung diseases.
A further explanation of what you can do with asthma and staying fit from a friend, Nina Cherie Franklin. Please be aware of asthma and its symptoms, treatment, and how to handle it and help others as supportive friends and family members. Thanks for listening!