Combating adult severe asthma and how to take control
This post about severe asthma was sponsored by Break the Cycle as part of an Influencer Activation for
Influence Central. All opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Living with severe asthma can be a lifelong battle, one that you continue to carry on as an adult.
Did you know? Nearly 1.3 million people in the US have severe uncontrolled asthma.
While asthma still affects me to this day, I was able to improve my asthma symptoms this past year while working with my doctor and my asthma management plan. Particularly compared to how my asthma was in my 20s during my latest pregnancy; the treatment options I was using were not working back then. My airways are small and get irritated easily, and that irritation triggers my asthma. When I am evaluated by a physician though, they aren’t able to tell when I’m having an asthma attack, because my lungs look and sound clear.
My asthma often sounds like a cold, I get a constant cough that won’t go away. It got to a point where I was coughing daily for months, and it wouldn’t go away until the summertime. At that point, I realized I couldn’t live like this anymore, and that I needed to work to break the cycle of my severe asthma. Asthma was making me feel like I couldn’t keep a handle on my life. Close friends and family knew what it was once I started coughing, but colleagues and strangers often looked at me with concern. Just going to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions felt like I was dodging triggers and fighting a huge battle, especially with what the world has been like – going out just wasn’t in the cards.
Allergy season was (and is) a trigger
Allergies severely affected my asthma growing up, especially during the fall and winter months. As a young adult in my 20s, I would have these weird episodes where I would have a nagging cough during the peak of most allergy seasons (but not every season). The winter and the end of summer are the worst times of year for my allergies, and it could sometimes go on for months. Instead of wheezing, an asthmatic cough was one of the hardest things I’ve had to battle during my 20s and my last pregnancy. When it wasn’t controlled, I would be absolutely miserable. Especially living in the Northeast – where the weather isn’t always in your favor – the seasons had a huge impact on my asthma.
There were different ways that, over time, I noticed my asthma was uncontrolled. The situations below really made it impossible for me to live my life normally:
- Going from a drastic temperature change, like stepping out into a humid 95-degree day and then returning inside with air conditioning. I would automatically start to have a constant irritating cough to the point my stomach hurt from all the coughing. Nothing would work. Even antibiotics. That’s when I knew something needed to be done.
- Not taking care of my symptoms during the off-seasons (this ultimately made the worst periods even tougher). I would believe that since my asthma seemed to be under control I didn’t see an issue with stopping my regular daily inhaler. Then when the Fall or Summer seasons approached my body would not be prepared for such an event. Ultimately making my asthma susceptible to having an attack.
- Having a small cold – this would kickstart my symptoms, and they continued even when my cold was over
Living with asthma during pregnancy
You are always told to make sure you keep up with your asthma regimen during pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different, which I learned firsthand: in my first pregnancy, I had no issues when it came to asthma but my asthma during my most recent pregnancy made life so much more complicated. It felt like my asthma was in overdrive on top of everything else, and since my pregnancy stretched into the fall it coincided with my allergies. It was so humid that the hot weather could actually make me break into an asthma attack at any time and I had to worry about that all the time.
What happens when your regimen just doesn’t work?
When I didn’t take care of my asthma, my reliance on my rescue inhaler could spike at any time. At one point I was using a rescue inhaler multiple times a day, while other times I would barely need it.
According to the American Lung Association, your asthma may be uncontrolled if you have symptoms or need your rescue inhaler more than 2 times per week, wake up with symptoms more than 2 times per month, or refill your rescue inhaler more than 2 times per year. Other indications which your asthma is well-controlled include the ability to do daily activities (including exercise) with little to no symptoms.
If your asthma is controlled, a rescue inhaler should be used no more than 1-2x per week, but it can be hard to keep track of.
Luckily, there are tools that can help. I realized I was going through my rescue inhaler so quickly, I would have to get a refill every one to two weeks, and that’s when I knew it was something I needed to figure out. At times I would feel like I was suffocating… which made me realize I needed to take care of my asthma and create a plan that could help. I was ready to take better control of my asthma, but it took a long period of consistently completing the regimen recommended by doctors for it to positively affect my asthma.
Who should you see when you are aiming to combat your asthma?
At the start, I was seeing my PCP. They always had a questionnaire they would have me go through, similar to this one here from AIRQ™.
AIRQ™ is a short questionnaire created to help you and your doctor understand your level of asthma control. Take the questionnaire before your next doctor visit and be sure to discuss your results.
Create an asthma plan with your doctor
That’s when I was able to create an asthma plan with my specialist. As an asthma sufferer, I can say that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Being able to have a plan of action will and can help your daily life, no matter what your asthma symptoms may be. Even though my symptoms may not seem life-altering in the way they are for someone else’s journey, asthma can be very life-changing in more ways than you think. Being able to share your journey with your support system is incredibly important. Keep the following in mind:
- Take the AIRQ™ questionnaire, track your asthma symptoms and rescue inhaler usage, and be ready to share this info at your next appointment
- Visit your allergy and asthma specialist (I visited an immunologist) to create an asthma management plan that’s right for you.
- Lastly but not least, be sure to share your asthma management plan with your care team, friends and family. During my pregnancy making sure my husband knew my plan to go into a scheduled C-section was important.
I hope you found this blog post helpful! Asthma can be hard to live with sometimes, but if you use the tools and resources that are out there, it can be a lot more manageable.