I did not know I had asthma until I moved from South Carolina to Florida. My doctor asked me why I moved to Florida, and I told him because it felt like I was breathing icicles in the winter. He said “Oh, you have asthma,” which is something I had never heard before. Luckily, my asthma is not life-threatening, but it does seriously restrict my outdoor activities.
Likely Causes of My Asthma
The asthma I have is classified as “Nonspecific Bronchial Hyperresponsiveness,” because it is not one of the six specific types of asthma. I have never smoked but my parents were both heavy smokers who smoked in the house. According to doctors, the most likely cause of my asthma is exposure to second-hand smoke. Smoking was allowed everywhere but church and hospitals when I was growing up. Pollution from cars, factories and textile mills was also prevalent, as were asbestos and formaldehyde in buildings. My developing some form of COPD was inevitable. What probably saved me from having it any worse was my love of the outdoors, where I got away from the toxins.
Dealing With Asthma in Hot Weather
Heat didn’t affect my breathing until I was in my late 40s. Exercise exacerbates my symptoms even further. When the temperatures get over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, I can only work in the yard for 10-to-15 minutes at a time before having to to cool down and catch my breath. Hiking is impossible during the hotter parts of the day. What I do to avoid major problems is:
- Exert myself only in the early mornings or early evenings when it’s cooler
- Keep myself hydrated, and keep water and cool, wet towels handy
- Break activities into short sessions and rest frequently
- Ensure there is a place to get out of the heat and into the shade, or into air-conditioning if possible
Dealing with Winter Asthma
Icy weather is the worst trigger for my asthma. I was trapped indoors for most of the winter in South Carolina, because breathing the icy air sent horrible shooting pains through my chest. Now when I have to be out in the cold, I take these precautions:
- Cover my mouth with a scarf to warm the air I breathe in
- Limit my time outside as much as possible.
- Try to schedule my outdoor activities during the warmest part of the day
I feel blessed that my asthma is not severe, so does not control my life. I don’t have to carry an inhaler or take daily medication. I could make excuses and avoid anything that makes me gasp for air, but I choose other routes. If my breathing problems worsen, I may have to restrict myself more. As for now, I’ll do as much of what I love as possible.
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