6 Things People with Asthma Should Know
I, like many others around the world, was born into this world with the joys of a diagnosis of asthma. If you are unaware of what asthma is, essentially the pipes that lead to your lungs launch a full-blown immune reaction to things that normally should not elicit a reaction (such as dust and cold air). This immune reaction results in your airways constricting (getting smaller) so less air can get into your lungs. Now, you certainly don’t need to have a medical degree to know that without oxygen you die… therefore, asthmatics struggle to do the one thing probably most crucial to sustaining life… breathing! (go us).
I never really considered it a bother because it was always a part of my life since I can remember. Growing up simple things like ice cream and cross country were just a no go. I never even really considered what it was like to be able to run in the cool morning air and not have to stop to pant by the side of the road while I caught my breath or go anywhere without actively having to pack my puffer.
However, there is a common belief among many that you can ‘grow out of asthma’. Whether this is true or not, I for one, can honestly say I no longer put asthma down on medical forms, I could not tell you where a puffer would be in my house and actually actively plan my runs in the morning now. I may still ‘have’ asthma but for me currently I would not consider myself asthmatic. Going from the hospital on oxygen to running City to Bay (12km fun run) 2 years in a row did not happen over night! However, in saying this it is also crucial that if you have ever been diagnosed with asthma that you are aware it can come back at any time! Especially when you are older or when you get sick - so not having a puffer can actually be quite dangerous.
I was blessed with a very intuitive nurse as a mother, who I have no doubt dedicated many of my younger years to doing everything she could to ensure my life was not plagued by this crippling condition. And for that, I thank her everyday.
Below are a few things that I personally found monumental in my journey through asthma:
1) Swimming could save your life
This was something my mother implemented very early on. We grew up in Australia on the river, so we learnt to swim before we could even walk. We did the normal childhood swimming lessons, but I then continued on into competitive swimming. This continued for most of my childhood, with a few attempts by me to quit, which mum quickly shut down (thank god!). The process of swimming actively forces you to hold your breath for longer periods of time than any other type of sport. This helps to enhance lung function and also increases aerobic fitness, which is very important for asthmatics. If you have asthma or a child with asthma get them swimming!
2) Brush your teeth after ventolin
Despite being a life saver (literally) ventolin puffers contain many ingredients that are not so beneficial for teeth health. Another thing my mum made a habit for me was brushing my teeth or at least having a glass of water and washing out my mouth after ventolin. This prevents the chance of certain chemicals building up on your teeth and potentially causing erosion and also increases the absorption of the medication through your body
3) Breathe through your nose
With severe asthma, the lungs are pretty much in a constant state of inflammation. A very small but all be it worthwhile habit is working on reducing mouth breathing. The filtering system of your nose is superior to that of your mouth, hence by using your nose predominantly to breath you are reducing the chance of triggers such as pollen, dust and bacteria reaching your lower airways and causing more inflammation. Hence, less of a chance of an asthma attack.
4) Know your triggers
If you have had asthma for a little while now you would know your exact triggers, most commonly these include; dust, pollen, cold weather or even in my case cold food. So whether it means missing out on cross-country or not cleaning that dust ridden shelf, whatever you can do to avoid triggers the easier it will be to breathe!
5) Stay fit
Fitness (especially aerobic) = more efficient oxygen exchange in the lungs = easier time breathing. Fitter people have healthier lungs that are able to extract more oxygen to circulate (known as VO2 max), so by combining this with number 1 (swimming) you can actively work towards not only a healthier lifestyle but a life less affected by asthma.
6) Don’t let it be an excuse
There is a fine line between getting a sick note for cross-country because it is in the middle of winter and the constriction of your airways caused by the cool air would undoubtedly cause a coughing attack, and, simply making asthma an excuse to not run ever. If you find yourself more often than not using asthma as a reason you cannot do things that you just don’t want to do, maybe you need to re-evaluate how you are portraying your condition.
Whether you have asthma or know someone with it I hope this has helped to shed some light on the condition itself and small, non medical ways in which those affected can better cope with daily life and also work towards a better quality of life with asthma.