Like many people with chronic health conditions, my journey with lung health took many twists and turns along the years. I first experienced shortness of breath in 7th grade when I was asked to run a mile in gym class. I couldn’t do it! I was coughing uncontrollably, and it felt like my lungs were on fire. I didn’t know it then, but it was the start of my life with asthma.
That day, I was sent to the school nurse (alone, which is never a good idea) who gave me ice cold water to drink and a paper bag to breathe into. I suppose she thought I was hyperventilating; but needless to say, neither of those remedies worked. My mom picked me up from school and took me directly to our local doctor. The doctor suspected exercise induced asthma and sent me outside to run around the building a few times to test out his theory. When I came back in, he listened to my lungs and found that I wasn’t wheezing so he thought I couldn’t have asthma. (Today we know that cough is not only a common asthma symptom, but it may also be the only symptom.)
Slowly over the course of the next year, my coughing got worse. I had a harsh, barking cough that would not stop. Each time I went to the doctor, they told me I had bronchitis and sent me home with numerous rounds of antibiotics, oral steroids, cough syrups, and eventually, Ventolin pills (Does anyone remember those?). I missed a large percentage of 8th grade and my freshman year of high school because of “bronchitis.” None of the prescribed treatments helped and I just felt jittery all the time. The doctor even wrote me a note to skip gym class because if I ran, I coughed. Today, that would never happen! Now, we know that physical activity is extremely important for overall health, and especially for lung health. (Although, I hated gym class and was very happy that I didn’t have to go anymore!)
Finally, after a few years of unsuccessful treatment, our local doctor sent me to a pulmonologist. This was the lightbulb moment for all of us. The pulmonologist knew within minutes that I had asthma. He started me on inhaled corticosteroids and a quick acting bronchodilator inhaler with a spacer. He also taught me how to avoid possible triggers and make changes to my home environment.
After I started looking at possible asthma triggers and focusing on avoiding them, my life changed overnight! I felt like I had finally gotten my life back. I quickly realized that controlling my environment and avoiding triggers is just as important as taking asthma medications. My asthma is mainly allergic. So, if I treat my allergies appropriately, my asthma is generally well controlled.
Everyone’s experience with chronic lung conditions is different, but when we share those experiences, we can all learn from each other. What’s your lung health story? What advice would you give other people with chronic health conditions? Do you find that controlling your environment helps to prevent your symptoms from flaring up? Share your story and wellness tips- I would love to hear them!