PTSD from Asthma?

If you don't know what PTSD is, it stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is usually triggered by a traumatic experience that happens to you (or you see it happen to someone else). It can cause severe anxiety, nightmares, and flashbacks.1

Mayo Clinic says:1

"PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person."

What does this have to do with asthma?

Asthma can cause some traumatic experiences

My three adult children and I all live with allergies and asthma (including food allergies). When Daughter and Middle Son were younger, they were in the hospital 12 times for asthma, and 2 of those were ICU admissions. Most of their hospitalizations were caused by pneumonia - but one was caused by smoke from a forest fire.

Every hospitalization is traumatic. Watching your child struggle to breathe is terrifying. So is trying to rush them to the hospital when they suddenly take a turn for the worst. One time, I told the ER staff that Middle Son had been hospitalized multiple times before, but this one was worse. The smoke from a nearby forest fire combined with fireworks the neighbors were shooting off had done a number on his lungs. That was one of the times Middle Son ended up in ICU. It was a VERY scary time for us!

PTSD strikes

Not long after that fire, another fire started in our mountains and smoke again filled the valley. I was doing laundry when I suddenly smelled smoke in our home. I had flashbacks and could vividly remember every detail of Middle Son's ICU stay. My heart started pounding as I relived the trauma of that event. I quickly threw clothes into suitcases and raced to the schools to get my kids. I was shocked when the schools were full of smoke too! I knew we had to get out of the town - FAST!

Our eyes were burning, our throats were sore, and our lungs were tight. I was driving as fast as I safely could on the interstate to get out of the smoke. An hour later, we finally emerged from the smoke, but we were all still feeling the effects of the smoke on our asthma.

I was so terrified Middle Son would end up in the ICU again, that I had to get as far away as I could. Luckily, we had family in another part of the state, so we headed there to be safe. After a long drive, we arrived at family's house, and our lungs were able to recover in the clean air.


Fast forward 20 years and my kids are all adults. We still struggle with allergies and asthma, but we are usually OK unless one of us gets sick.

Last week, we had another forest fire. I watched the water drops all day and was relieved to see the fire burning up the mountain instead of going toward our homes. I went to bed feeling that things were under control.

But -  I woke up to a house filled with smoke. Instantly, the flashbacks started. My heart was pounding as I jumped out of bed to gather all of the air purifiers in the house. I put them on the main level to help with the smoke. I peeked outside, but it was too smoky to see anything. So I checked the "fire watch" site to see if the fire had spread and if any part of it was contained.

I was a nervous wreck all day because I didn't know what was going to happen. Luckily, the air purifiers did their job and the smoke was quickly cleared out of our house. I checked on all of my kids, and they were okay - no smoke in their apartments. It took several days, but the wild land fire fighters were able to contain the fire.

It's natural to worry and be scared when you have an experience like that. If you are like me and have PTSD from a traumatic event, please talk to a mental health professional. They are there to help!

Has anyone else had a traumatic asthma experience that has led to PTSD?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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