When you’re suffering from a condition that one in 13 of the population also suffers from (that’s 334 million people worldwide), it often gets difficult to convince a non-asthmatic that asthma is a real, serious condition that significantly impacts your life. Just because asthma is the most common chronic respiratory disease, non-asthmatics think they know all about your struggles with asthma. As an asthmatic, it sucks when someone dismisses the inconvenience and pain you’re going through, as though they know better. To do justice to all you asthmatics out there, we have come up with a list of struggles that only asthmatics will understand, and we hope the non-asthmatics will be more empathetic after reading this!

 

Your morning routine is important and takes time

While most people’s mornings consist of jumping out of bed in a frenzy and flying out the door, asthmatics cannot afford to do that. They’ve got to be disciplined and take their peak flow measurements, use the preventer inhaler, and take their medications if any. They also need to give themselves time to transit from one morning task to another, because rushing is likely to leave them out of breath and that is not how one would want to start their day.

 

You always have to remember your inhaler and your medications

Going out can never be spontaneous – asthmatics have got their medications to take, their inhaler to bring, and a medication timetable to follow. These preparations could save their lives, because they never know when an attack will happen. An inhaler isn’t like a forgotten hair-tie or portable charger – it’s unlikely that a friend would have an extra one to spare – so asthmatics have really got to bring it everywhere with them.

In addition, when they’re going to be out for long periods of time, they’ve got to find ways to remember to take their medications on time. This can be really tough when life gets busy, so many of them set alarms as reminders. That really takes some intense discipline and a lot of planning!

 

You can’t just start physical activity – you need to use your preventer inhaler first

Similarly, asthmatics cannot be spontaneous about starting any physical activity. They have to first use their preventer inhaler, so that their airways are prepped support the body’s increased need for oxygen. Thus, as much as we might hate running for the bus or train, it is a privilege that asthmatics don’t have.

In addition, the green light to exercise is dependent on the weather. Asthmatics try to avoid windy days and days when pollen counts are high, because these won’t help stave off an attack. The best time for running is after a rainstorm, for that washes away pollen. 

 

As a severe asthmatic, when you try to explain your condition to people, they tend to not understand the difference between mild asthma and severe asthma

“Yeah, just asthma, every other person has it, right?”

No! Severe asthma is asthma that cannot be controlled even with compliance to medication. Severe asthmatics are usually given steroids, which can help, but ultimately their effects will not be long-term. Repeated use of steroids will also cause health problems, such as mood swings and weight gain, which definitely aren’t good for emotional health.

When an attack happens, severe asthmatics often end up in the ER, and they could be off work or school for a week or two at times due to their condition. It’s difficult for people to understand why such a long recovery period is required after an attack, which leads to a lot of misunderstandings and tension between colleagues.

So the next time someone tells you they have severe asthma, be aware of the distinction!

 

You get tired and out of breath easily, and it really frustrates you

People often associate asthmatics with smokers or lazy, unfit people – that’s a huge, false generalisation right there, and often very insulting. Most asthmatics have had to stop their physically active lives after developing asthma. The restriction asthma puts on physical activity can be devastating and really frustrating for some, especially those who love exercising.

It gets worse when people assume that asthmatics sit out of physical activity because they are being lazy. That’s not the case at all! Asthmatics understand their body better than anybody else, so if they choose to take a break, it’s probably because they are trying to avoid an attack.

 

The weather forecast app, not Instagram, is the first thing you open in the morning

Asthmatics are loyal subscribers of the weather forecast. They’ve got to check the weather conditions every morning because the weather can influence the medications they have to take. Especially during spring and winter, when hay fever and winter asthma are more prevalent, asthmatics have got to be even more cautious. Pollen is a common asthma trigger during spring that causes hay fever, while cold air during winter will further irritate the airways, worsening asthma symptoms. Imagine having to pay attention to pollen – we can hardly even see it, let alone bother about it, but this is what asthmatics have to deal with on a daily basis.

 

Your job is more badly affected by asthma than one can imagine

Most employers don’t understand severe asthma well enough to empathize with how badly an attack can affect an asthmatic’s work. When an attack happens, one to two weeks off work is usually required for recovery, but taking time off for such long periods unfortunately draws disapproval from employers and colleagues. Many severe asthmatics have to work in an environment where their employers and colleagues don’t understand severe asthma and think they’re just trying to skive. It’s an unpleasant feeling and makes working with asthma even tougher than it already is.

 

Resources

(The Global Asthma Report 2018)

What Is Severe Asthma?

Denise Mann – https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/managing-severe-asthma/what-is-severe-asthma/

Hayley – My Life With Asthma

https://www.boehringer-ingelheim.com/respiratory/asthma/hayley-my-life-asthma

Severe Asthma Symptoms

https://toolkit.severeasthma.org.au/living-severe-asthma/daily-symptom-burden/

12 Tips To Get Exercise and Prevent Asthma Attacks While Running

Pat Bass-Sanja Jelic – https://www.verywellhealth.com/tips-to-keep-running-with-asthma-200591

Working When You Have Severe Asthma

https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/severe-asthma/making-life-easier-severe-asthma/working-when-you-have-severe-asthma/