I am often asked how I cope with brittle asthma and how I get through an attack. There are the obvious answers which anybody who suffers from asthma will know, for example keep taking your preventer inhaler even when feeling ok and always carry your reliever inhaler with you etc. What I have tried to detail below is just some of the things I do to try and prevent asthma attacks occurring and what I can do to try and get through one should one strike.
When my chest is tight and my nebs aren’t helping too much I often find that using a heat pack can just take the edge off of the pain caused by the tightness. The one that I use is a wheat filled pack which I microwave for a few minutes. A hot water bottle will work just as well. I find that the heat from the pack just eases the chest pain and tightness to a more bearable level.
Snood or Scarf
This is something that is common practice for asthmatics to wear during cold weather. Covering both mouth and nose the scarf or snood prevents cold air from been breathed directly in. My personal choice is to wear a snood.
One of most frustrating things when you are suffering an asthma attack is to be told to calm down and breathe. It really annoys me when I hear this so one method I use is to listen to music. This blocks out a lot of ‘good’ advice but I also have a play list on my iPhone which contains a number of songs that I find help me breathe in time to the tune. As regular readers of this blog will know, my favourite is an acoustic version of the song ‘Umbrella’ which is sung by the Manic Street Preachers.
I usually listen to the music via a tiny (single) Bluetooth ear bud which when worn is hardly noticeable and if it is it looks like a small hearing aid. I use this all the time when I am struggling to breathe, whether at home or in hospital. As already mentioned it blocks out a lot of the back ground noise, it helps me to control my breathing but it also helps me to relax and stay calm. These ear buds can be bought off Amazon and start at 6 or £7. The battery life on them is approximately 5 hours before they need recharging. The added bonus is that you can actually sleep while you have it in your ear!
Action Plan / Bible
This is something that I have written about previously. I always carry my Asthma bible with me, it is basically a small credit card wallet which contains laminated cards detailing vital information about me, such as medical conditions, contacts, medication, symptoms, usual treatment and my action plan.
This is great for letting paramedics or doctors know such things like I often suffer from a silent chest. To read the piece that I did about my asthma bible, click on the link below:
Don’t ask me why but I always need a fan, especially at night when I’m in bed. It doesn’t matter whether it is a warm and humid night in the middle of summer or whether it is a freezing cold night in the middle of winter, I always need a fan. I just need that feeling of a breeze blowing on me, that little of air movement, I don’t think that it is particularly a temperature thing, just air movement. I have a fairly large fan in the bedroom but I also have a small portable fan which I got off of Amazon which is small, quiet, works from the mains or a rechargeable battery (8 hours) – which is great when staying in a hotel if there are no plugs close to the bed, and as an added bonus it doubles as a phone charger. It is about 5 or 6 inches high, 3 inches wide, 2 inch thick and comes with 3 different speed settings, an adjustable stand to tilt the fan and is charged via a micro usb. I can’t manage without it and it only cost me £8
Self Belief / Confidence
This may seem like a strange one but let me explain. You as the asthmatic are the expert, maybe not an asthma expert but you are an expert on you! A doctor can examine you, he can look at you and he can read sats, observations and test results but you know yourself when something is wrong. It’s not easy, especially if you are struggling to breathe but the doctor doesn’t think that there is anything wrong with you. The number of times that I have had to convince an A&E doctor that I am having an asthma attack is beyond belief, purely because he couldn’t hear any wheeze!
What you have to remember is that A&E staff are very rarely asthma experts and do you have to provide them with as much information as you can, do not start to doubt yourself, if you know that you are correct and they are wrong you have to get the message across. Not easy I know, but further reasons to understand your own condition, be confident in yourself and also another good reason to carry your version of an asthma bible as mentioned above.
Again this is not easy, I myself regularly get very down about my asthma. It is very easy to get depressed and worry but neither of these will help.
Two things that were told to me stick in my mind. The first applies to when you are stuck in hospital, maybe following an attack and you were wishing that you were at home. “You are better off laying in hospital wishing that you were at home rather than sitting at home wishing that you were in hospital”
Another phrase or saying that I use a lot is “Enjoy the good days and survive the bad”
I particularly try to live my life by this phrase, I have many bad days and I just aim to get through them. The key though is to make the best of the good days. Try to remain positive, it’s not easy but remember you are not alone in what you are going through, which leads me onto…..
Talk to People
Talking to people, especially loved ones, about Asthma is not always easy. Asthma is very complicated and unless somebody has first hand knowledge of the condition it is not easy to understand or appreciate what we go through. Whether it is the fear of an attack, life adjustments, worry, recovery, side effects etc it is not easy. In addition to this the closer the person is to you, the harder it can be to pass the burden onto them. That is why many asthmatics find it easier talking to other asthmatics who they don’t particularly know. Social media is great for this, there are numerous support groups on Facebook, there is the Asthma UK forum, there is Twitter and there are numerous Asthma Blogs. I have spoken to many great people online who have offered great support and advice, most of whom I have never met and in all likelihood never will. It is though so easy to talk to people who aren’t too close or emotionally attached, that plus they appreciate and have experienced what you are going through. Sometimes you don’t even need a reply, sometimes you just need to let off steam which is something that I use this blog for. In addition to this you can always speak to an asthma nurse, either face to face at your local practice / Hospital or by ringing the Asthma UK helpline.
To see a list of links to useful websites and blogs click on the link below:
Sats and Observations
Most asthmatics will monitor certain things, whether it be peakflows, SP02 levels etc. These provide useful markers and guides as to how you are doing but it is important not to get too hung up about your sats. You can feel great yet have poor sats and you can have good sats but be struggling. By all means use the information given by the sats, they are useful, they can highlight potential attacks etc but they aren’t always 100% correct. So by all means increase your medication or speak to your GP if your sats are dropping but the main thing is how you feel, I would rather feel ok with poor sats than the opposite way around. As my consultant tells me, a good doctor will always treat the patient and the symptoms rather than the sats!
Everybody is different though and what helps me might not help others. I would love to hear what other asthmatics do to try and make things easier for themselves. Please let me know via the blog, twitter or Facebook. Additionally if you know of any other blogs, links and resources that I should add to the page please let me know. Thanks for reading!