On my first day doing work experience at a special needs school, I asked the teacher who I would be helping if asthma would upset the kids and if- in the event of an attack- I should take my inhaler in private. The teacher explained to me that the kids see a lot of strange things every day due to the number of conditions in the school and that I didn’t need to worry about upsetting them. Well, that’s what she meant anyway… What she said is quite different, it was a long the lines of
“Oh, no, asthma isn’t that serious. The kids won’t care, they see a lot worse.”
When I was younger, I used to think asthma wasn’t that serious. I would joke about it, forget to take my inhalers to school and even try and get over the attacks on my own sometimes. (DO NOT DO THIS! ALWAYS TAKE YOUR INHALER AS PRESCRIBED BY YOUR DOCTOR.)
I remember my Mum explaining to me that asthma isn’t something that I should take so lightly and that asthma is something that people can die from. I’d never thought about it that way before. I remember thinking “ah, but, I won’t die from it. That’ll never happen.” But soon I came to realise that you could die from any asthma attack if a) it’s a particularly bad attack or b) the attack isn’t dealt with properly. I started trying to take a bit more responsibility for it and at work experience, that was my way of saying “I’m responsible for what happens to me”. And having someone who works with disabilities on a daily basis telling me that asthma “isn’t that serious” was very irritating for me.
I am in no way saying that I’m disabled. Asthma, although potentially fatal, is very easy to live with and you can work around it. There’s even ways for you to make it much better. (Excluding “severe asthma” which I am not talking about here because I don’t know a lot about it). However, I stood there in front of her thinking “Oh, they’ve seen worse than someone who is at risk of dying every day, huh?” I knew those kids were in a lot worse situations than me and that they did see some crazy things but I also knew that the things they see are on par with what I go through all the time. An asthma attack isn’t exactly just take your inhaler and 5 seconds later you’re fine, it’s quite often worse than that. I really wanted to teach that lady some respect for what I have to deal with every day but because she’s adult and I was a teenager I didn’t feel like I could.
So, that’s what I’m going to do now. I’m going to teach my readers about asthma and how you can help with someone you know who has it. Just to raise awareness and get rid of the stereotypes you see on your screens.
As I said, with asthma you can pretty much function as a normal human but there are some annoying things on the side that you have to do. You constantly have to make sure that you have inhalers on you. I find this, in the words of Lady Catherine De Burge, “extremely vexing”. Constantly having to know where it is, constantly having to remember how long it’s been since you bought it so you can order a new one and always having to go back to your home because you forgot that it wasn’t in your pocket is sooo irritating! So next time you’re picking up someone with asthma, check with them if they have their inhaler! If you’re thinking ‘but if it’s the device that’s literally keeping you alive then surely you don’t forget it that often?’ then you’re wrong. The amount of times me and my Mum are out and realise we don’t have an inhaler is… a lot.
You may have read the part in that last paragraph about buying inhalers twice. Yes, we have to pay for inhalers. I understand it, I really do. Inhalers are expensive to make and we are using a product. But it is pretty sad to think I have to pay for things that prevent my death and people on the pill don’t have to pay to prevent babies. (But seriously, I have a lot of respect for people who can be bothered to take the pill and I’m sincerely glad that it’s free. I was really bad at it and gave up after a while, so well done!) I’m merely wishing here that a product that is essential in order to live normally is free as long as the consumer is taking the medication correctly.
Another not great thing is the pain. It really hurts to have an asthma attack and just to live with it in general. You’re whole body is working extremely hard to get you better and because it involves your lungs which take up a lot of space in your body, it can affect you a lot. Your throat feels tight, you can’t breathe through your nose, your back hurts so much and sometimes you can’t move for a very long time. It’s sometimes quite scary having an asthma attack and because you’re having difficulty breathing, if you don’t have your inhaler, you can’t easily communicate what you need. That doesn’t happen too often though. Usually you stop, try to slow your breathing, take your inhaler once or twice and it clears up. It can take anywhere from 2 minutes to several hours to get over an attack no matter how big or small it is.
Then there’s general life. Asthmatics can do everything that “normal” people can do. It just might take longer or more hard work than usual. Things like climbing stairs, going on a walk, laughing too hard, allergies, doing any form of exercise, dust, lifting things, weird smells, season changes and going from one temperature to another in a short time are just some of the things that can trigger asthma. Everyone is different, some people only get triggered by one, some -like me- get trigged by them all… Yaaay!
And the last thing is statistics and facts. I’ll do some of the depressing ones and then the cooler ones.
- Asthma attacks kill 3 people a day.
- Asthma can affect growth mainly in children. However, the medication for preventing asthma can also affect growth.
- The long-term use of steroids has been associated with a risk of reduced bone density in some people.
- In 2016, 1,370 people died of asthma in the UK.
- Frequent asthma attacks can sometimes lead to airways becoming scarred or narrower.
Asthmatics aren’t just nerds. Here are some people you may have heard of who have/had asthma:
If anyone has any questions about asthma, ask! I did consult the official website for asthma so that I got my facts right but most of this is from my own personal experiences and everyone experiences illnesses differently. However, if you see something that is factually wrong please don’t hesitate to correct me 🙂