The Air We Breathe
How is the air outside today? How is the weather? How about the air in your home, is it safe enough for an asthmatic? As people with asthma, air quality is something we must consider.
I am constantly wondering about what I am breathing into my very sensitive airways. Weather conditions or even slight changes in weather conditions can send me into a tailspin. The air indoors, in my own home, or home I am visiting, or the air quality in an enclosed public space or air quality outdoors, all present asthma challenges.
Some of these factors are beyond our control but we can still do our best to keep ourselves safe even if we are exposed to triggers. Here are some of the things I do to keep my exposure to irritants and triggers to a minimum or, at the very least, minimize the effects of exposure when it is out of my control.
Maintaining indoor air quality for asthma
I try to keep my home as dust-free as possible. I use a high-quality vacuum that is asthma and allergy safe. It has great filters on it and I keep the canister and the filters very clean. I am a bit of a clean freak so this is easy for me.
Keeping the bed clean
I keep all of my bedding clean and do not use down pillows. I have found cleaning and laundry products that work for me and I do not deviate from those.
Controlling the air
The big player in my home is the upgrade I made to my heating and air conditioning system. There is a super duper filter on the system that has to be changed by an expert. It is worth the extra expense.
I also have a room air purifier and it is awesome. It automatically detects fine particles (dust, pollen), VOCs, and other pollutants and begins to filter the air when levels in my home rise - and it does so without any effort from me! It’s my own personal “air security guard”. Of course, my windows stay closed during all allergy seasons. I have some peace of mind in my own home because of these simple steps.
Air quality elsewhere
Visiting the home of friends and family is a different story. I lose some level of control. Scented candles, heavy perfumes, or laundry soap… it can be exhausting thinking about all of these things.
I always, always have my rescue inhaler with me. I bring my nebulizer with me too. I am fortunate that most of my family and friends understand my triggers and, unfortunately, some of them have seen me have attacks and it terrified them. So they are very tuned in to my needs. I don’t like that I have to ask for special consideration, but it is what it is and my goal is to stay healthy.
What about the great outdoors?
I am happiest when I am outside. I prefer to be outside all year round. I live in the northeastern US, so we have four very distinct seasons. I love-hate all of them, though I mostly hate winter. Managing the challenges of season changes can be very complicated and can make the task of staying healthy very difficult, hence the love-hate relationship.
Adjusting to seasonal changes
Right now it is winter, but the weather has been incredibly inconsistent so far: warm spring-like temperatures one day and frigid and windswept the next. The nice days are a treat, but they are a double-edged sword. It’s easier to be outdoors to take my walk in spring. Then I’m not wearing my face mask hat, I’m not weighed down by a heavy coat, scarf, gloves… it’s pleasant. But I know my body, more specifically my lungs, are not getting a chance to adjust and deal with the winter weather on a consistent basis. This inconsistency causes flares in my asthma symptoms.
Today was sunny, mild. There is snow in the forecast in two days. Dramatic swings lead to dramatic impacts on my body. So I just keep up with my exercise program, am always diligent about my meds, maybe add in some extra breathing exercises and use my rescue inhaler to keep things running smoothly.
Monitoring air quality for my asthma
Air quality plays a factor in asthma symptoms as well. I signed up for air quality reports for my region through AirNow, a government agency. The site links you to enviroflash.info where you can sign up for air quality reports for your area. It provides me with daily reports that help determine how long I want to be outside each day. My reports come from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and provide updates and warnings about conditions that are harmful to persons with breathing issues. I find it to be a useful tool in my asthma toolbox.
Of course, we have no control over the weather, the air quality, or the random person that walks past us on the street and blows cigarette smoke in our faces. But we do what we can, use as many tools as we find that can help and, as I always say, get on with our day.
Do you have any tools you use to help you? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.
Do you get muscle cramps caused by your asthma medicine?