Asthma, Air Quality, and Canceled Plans
Last updated: October 2023
It has already happened once this summer, but for the second time, a dramatic air quality drop from wildfire smoke has thrown me off my otherwise generally well-controlled asthma game!
It's not like I had not anticipated this would happen: at my most recent appointment with my asthma specialist, we discussed again attempting to reduce my inhaled steroid while keeping my combination inhaler at baseline, but holding off until forest fire season was over due to the extreme unpredictability.
And here I was thinking I was safe from the smoke drifting down from the Northwest Territories because I did not leave my house, but no. Somehow, the smoke got me.
The looming smoke; the beginning of an asthma flare
Here I was, powering through my week, with plans to wrap up work early on Thursday (which is my Friday), go visit a friend outdoors at a local market, then have dinner on the patio with another friend once she got off work.
Then the cough started.
I often do not respond to the asthma cough as quickly as I should, though it may or may not have mattered in this case. It did not exactly give me a ton of warning time to do anything. Then the shortness of breath and nagging mild chest tightness started.
And the headache.
I knew the smoke was looming. I did not even go out canvassing with our election team on Tuesday night because the air quality was marginal, leaning into moderate risk. I stayed in my house and phone banked instead. Yet, somehow, despite this, I still had enough smoke exposure to cause a several-day-long flare, on the first-ish day of which I questioned if my body were actually 70% Ventolin.
Monitoring the air quality for my asthma: Canceled plans
Still, I hoped the air quality would improve so I could keep my Thursday plans! I frequently checked the air quality forecasts Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and all signs were not looking good--like, the weather person said smoke or smoky 12 times in a 3 minute span as she did the weather at during the 6 PM news.
I held out hope until I opened the Environment and Climate Change Canada website at 5:54 AM (after waking up short of breath once again!) to see an Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) score of 7 - high risk for Thursday, and 6 - moderate risk for the evening.
I mean, I had not even gone outside before I started flaring. I am not sure how bad I could have felt if I had!
So I texted my friends, and with a lot of frustration and disappointment, canceled our plans. They were both completely understanding--actually, the friend I had planned dinner with actually was the first to suggest we postpone even if the air quality had improved but my breathing was still questionable.
As understanding as they were, it is still frustrating to have to cancel plans-especially when I had a perfectly good free afternoon off work to have fun with, and instead, I am sitting in my house with lingering dyspnea writing this piece! These perfect temperature days of summer are so few and far between that it makes it even more frustrating when my body gets to call the shots!
I try to reassure myself that if I stay home today, if I keep fending off this flare with my nebulizer and inhaler close at hand, I can have fun this weekend--even if I don't know that's a fact or not yet.
It does not suck any less, obviously. And it does not make the smoke any less insidious as an asthma trigger. It is just one of those unfortunate, so-called compromises of living with severe asthma...except somehow, I am no closer to knowing what the actual agreement might be.
Have you had to cancel or postpone plans because of an asthma flare?
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