Asthma Sucks. Hard.

May! Mother’s Day, my Dad’s birthday, Cinco de Mayo, Labour Day — and World Asthma Month. I didn’t even know about the latter until I searched on Twitter for #asthma related posts after having a shocking night. I have severe adult-onset asthmaI had childhood asthma until I was about 12, then re-developed it in NYC (pretty sure my then-fondness for flavoured cigs was a factor). Ah, asthma. So common, yet so tough to spell correctly.

Of those 300 asthmatics, about 32 mill are in Europe, and I’m one of 2 million in Australia (about 1 in 10 adults have it here). And whaddya know – asthma doesn’t descriminate! Taylor Walker, superstar key forward for the Adelaide Crows AFL team, has battled asthma all his life.

Other well-known asthmatics (apparently):

  • Creative types: Diane Keaton, Liza Minnelli, Bob Hope, Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone, Liz Taylor, Orson Welles, Jason Alexander, Beethoven, Billy Joel, rapper DMX, rocker Alice Cooper, Charles Dickins
  • Former US presidents: JFK, Bill Clinton, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Theodore Roosevelt

Some of our major related organisations – the Asthma FoundationAsthma Australia (which does not have any nice infographics) and the National Asthma Council Australia – provide these stats:

  • Over 400 Australians die each year from asthma
  • In 2011, asthma caused the deaths of 378 Australians
  • Asthma prevalence in Australia is high by international standards
  • The majority of adults with asthma have mild or very mild asthma
  • Up to 90% of people who have asthma inhalers do not use them correctly

Day-to-day, I keep it under control using a combination of inhalers and Singular (given recent media attention re: medicating asthmatic kids with it – read Asthma Australia‘s statement here). When it gets really bad, I find smelling Eucalyptus oil (Bosisto’s from the big supermarkets – has clean/freshen properties, too – good to add to laundry loads like sheets FYI!) and setting up a vapourizer in my bedroom of a nighttime helps.  Plus, a hot coffee can help if I’m out and about — the caffeine and steam helps open the lungs.

An unfortunate trigger is pet hair – and we have four dogs. But that’s not all! Among the other things that’ll set asthma off…

(Strong emotions?! That doesn’t set mine off, as far as I know) Biggies for me are dust, pollen (FML), food allergies, exercise, changes in the weather, and smoke.

As I have the winning combo of severe asthma and salicylate allergy (with the super fun risk of anaphylaxis!), making me a pain in the ass during a medical emergency, I wear a MedicAlert bracelet ID 24/7. I ordered it hassle-free online – picked the one I wanted (talk about range: they do them in 24K gold now – phwoar! – plus dog tag style for the lads, sports bands, and ones with Swarovski crystals…I went for the still-classy-but-I-can-still-eat stainless steel), plugged in my info (condition specifics, GP contact details, emergency contacts) and now emergency services and healthcare people can look up my info immediately and give me the right treatment. I think MedicAlert IDs are particularly important if you’re often away from close friends and family (who know the right treatment etc.).

What’s the deal during an asthma attack? EverydayHealth has a great guide, including how to recognise an asthma attack (impaired breathing is the clearest sign, leading to wheezing, tightening of the chest, coughing spells, spluttering etc.) and what to do (stay calm, eliminate the trigger if possible, put the emergency plan into action if possible (inhalers etc), call an ambulance).

If you’re on Twitter, check out the #asthma and #worldasthmaday hashtags.

One comment

  1. Jeremy Oaten

    Hi Emma
    You composed an excellent tweet that has led me into your blog on this issue – well done.
    I thought I knew some things about asthma, but it turns out that I knew very little.
    Thank you for your informative and passionate blog post on this issue, your excellent ‘info graphics’ and wonderful writing style that has made me a more-aware-person on asthma.
    Kind Regards
    Jeremy Oaten

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