As an asthma suffering, I dread the winter. I can go for 8 months of the year without a single problem. Once the temperatures start to drop, so does my ability to breath!
Asthma is a condition that effects the airways. When someone has an asthma attack, the muscles around the walls of their airways tighten, causing the airway to narrow. The lining can become inflamed and swollen, with a sticky mucus or phlegm building up, causing the airways to close further.
When this occurs, it is difficult for the person to breath, causing tightness of the chest, wheezing or coughing. It can feel pretty scary!
I was diagnosed with asthma in adult hood, but it can start from childhood, as is the case for my younger brother.
There are a variety of situations that can bring on an attack. Allergies, such as pollen or animal fur, smoke, pollution, cold air, exercise, and infections like colds and flu, are the most common.
For me, it certainly is the cold weather, and colds and flu.
Tomorrow I am returning to work after 2 weeks off. Initially, I went down with the flu. I have had the flu vaccination, but this does not mean you are immune from getting the flu.
I have to say, I think that this was the worst case of flu I have ever had. It completely knocked me out. I then had the added complication of my asthma.
As with other sufferers, I take inhalers everyday. One is to prevent an attack which I take twice a day, and the other one is to relieve any symptoms, as and when the happen.
Unfortunately, neither seemed to help. Night time was worse. I would lay in bed and feel like I was physically chocking. I would end up sitting up in bed or actually getting up, until such a time as I could lie down again.
After 6 days of not improving, I visited my GP. I attend annual check ups, where they measure my peak flow. This is the measure of how much air you can blow out of your lungs, and is an indicator as to how well air is moving out of your lungs. Mine was down by 25% and so I was put on a course of steroids. I don’t particularly like taking them, they can cause weight gain as well as poor skin, but at the end of the day, if it helps me to breath again, I will.
When your asthma isn’t controlled, you feel extremely tired. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have slept, or just laid around unable to do anything, over the last couple of weeks. Even now, because it isn’t fully sorted, I am exhausted all the time.
It also means that I struggle to do exercise. As you know, I love the gym. Being fit does help keep asthma under control, however when you have had an episode, it is very difficult to firstly get the energy to exercise, and secondly to do so without coughing, wheezing and struggling to breath.
I am hoping that next week I may be able to get back into the gym, even for light exercise, and build myself back up.
If left untreated, asthma can turn into a lung infection (pneumonia) or even worse, death.
As a sufferer, it is really important that I manage my medication properly. I know when I am most vulnerable, and try to find things that will help. Unfortunately for me, my current lifestyle doesn’t help me.
My company relocated over 6 years ago. I went from driving to work in a warm car, to having to commute on public transport. This means that during the winter months, I have to stand on a train platform in the cold and damp. I then have a walk to the office. Both of these put a strain on me. I always increase my inhalers during the winter months, but sadly, I am always going to be more open to attacks.
On the plus side, a few years ago, I was suffering with my asthma. We were flying out to South Africa to visit my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Unfortunately, my husband and I were seated on separate rows. I was coughing very badly. The gentleman next to me must have thought I had a cold, so very kindly offered to swap places with my husband! I didn’t think it would be worth telling him the truth! Ha ha!
Although most asthma sufferers will manage their own symptoms, if you do see someone who is struggling to breath, get them to calm down if they are stressing, as this makes trying to catch your breath worse.
Get them to sit up. Look for their reliever inhaler. It is usually blue. Get them to take a puff every 30 to 60 seconds, up to 10 puffs. This many puffs will make the person feel dizzy, but that is normal. If they are not improving call for an ambulance immediately. Get them to continue with the blue inhaler.
If they don’t have their inhaler and are struggling, call for an ambulance straight away.
Approximately 3 people a day die from asthma attacks, of which they estimate that 2/3 could have been prevented. By recognising the symptoms early, and controlling them, many more lives will be saved.
Thankfully, for most of us, with our medication we can live normal lives.
Tomorrow is forecast to be really cold. I will be making sure I am wrapped up warm on the train platform. I will have a scarf to prevent the cold air getting into my lungs! I will be carrying my inhalers, and making sure I take them throughout the day! I know I will be coughing a lot throughout the day, which will make me tired, so an early night will definitely be in order tomorrow night!
If you want to know more about asthma visit https://www.asthma.org.uk/