The first asthma attack I had was a doozy. I knew I was allergic to pine, but I didn’t know how bad it was until we cut down a 60 foot tall tree next to the house. That sent me in for emergency help twice in one week. Since then I’ve discovered other triggers…and how to avoid them.
Education: This is key to handling asthma. It’s also frequently personal. What triggers my asthma attacks may not trigger yours, but there are a bunch that are common. For me, I know that pine, carnations, avocado blossoms and sycamore seed balls cause asthma attacks.
Tools: There is one tool every asthmatic should have and use. It’s a peak flow meter, and it can tell you how well you are breathing. When it is in the danger area, it’s time to break out the rescue inhaler. Readings should be taken twice a day and written down so the doctor can review them and tweak medications as needed.
Ask questions: Ask your doctor about asthma. Ask your pharmacist about the drugs involved, how to use them and what to look for as to side effects. If you’re going somewhere, find out in advance if there is something present that could cause an asthma attack. I have to ask people at Christmas what type of tree they have. If they say pine, I can’t go.
Exercise: Asthma attacks can be caused by exercise but that doesn’t mean you get a free ride. While I can’t use a treadmill or go for a brisk walk (or any type of jog…), the exercise bike works fine. So do aquatic exercises, and the latter is better for those of us with joint problems. If you do use aquatic exercise, a saline pool is better than a chlorine pool. My asthma flares up when I’m around a lot of chlorine.
Medications: Never stop taking prescribed asthma medications without talking to your doctor. This is true even if you read reports that one or more of the medications could have serious side effects. Instead, bring the concerns up with your doctor and discuss ways to avoid the side effects.
Herbs: This is an area that can be difficult. There are herbs that can help asthma…as long as the patient isn’t allergic to them. I use Ricola’s herbal cough drops as I know I’m not allergic and if I’m having an asthma attack I *don’t* want to try making my own preparations.
Emergencies: You can expect them to crop up. I was away from home and had an asthma attack so bad the doctor couldn’t hear breath sounds. I was coughing so hard I was throwing up. The breathing treatment they gave me really helped, though the first two or three minutes I coughed out almost as much as I breathed in. (It was also rather funny looking. I felt like a cross between an opium smoker and Sherlock Holmes…or is that redundant?)
I can tell you that I hate having asthma. I can also tell you that these tips help. It may not stop every asthma attack, but it can cut them back quite a bit.