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Asthma ≠ Algebra: Answering the Whys of a Doctor, on Inhaler “Adherence”

Probably more often than I should, I meet circumstances of non-asthmatics dealing with asthmatics that cause me to want to do some kind of facepalm/headdesk combination. Now, I want to put it out there first that there are a lot of non-asthmatics, including medical professionals, that are super great at not making assumptions. However, the quickest way I can often tell a person with asthma from a non-asthmatic (or a patient from a non-patient, in a more general sense).

Recently, in Tales from Kerri Tries to Be Smart and Listen to Webinars (Fun fact: I’ve recently begun making Buzzword Bingo cards which make these events more entertaining), the presenter said the following:

“I don’t know why, but people don’t like to take their inhaler, or forget to take their inhaler.”

I immediately texted this to two friends (because sometimes a good ol’ group chat is the way to get through these things), and appended you clearly don’t have asthma. Hey, want to know why you don’t know why? ‘Cause you’ve never asked!

Let me, eight years in, put this into perspective for this speaker, okay?

It’s currently 8 pm. Today, so far, I have taken 3 inhalers, totaling 7 puffs of medicine. I will take at least another 5 puffs tonight.

Asthma.Net community, y’all get this, I realize. Even if you haven’t had to take multiple inhalers or even if you haven’t taken an inhaler at all today, we’ve all had to do things like double check that we had our inhalers before we left the house. This isn’t to mention that we all had to in the back of our minds contemplate how we were breathing or at the very least survey the environment for triggers, but for today, let’s make this just about the inhalers, okay?

Here’s the deal. I just did the math (or a ballpark of it, including an Excel spreadsheet), and I’ve taken approximately 45,000 puffs of asthma medicine in the 3,139 days since my asthma diagnosis—8 years, 7 months and 3 days at the time of writing this. That number is only going up. That averages 14 puffs of medicine per day. (An average I hope is maybe going down). That doesn’t include the years I was on Singulair or any nebulizer treatments I’ve taken. It doesn’t include prednisone. Just inhalers.

I forget to take my inhalers because I am human.

 You know when you forget your gloves or shopping list or can’t remember if you watered your plant? I do this day in and day out, just like you do those things if you’re the glove-wearing, shopping or plant-keeping type(s). And sometimes I am not sure if that was today or yesterday that I took that particular inhaler. We are all busy. And, after a few years, it gets old.

I “don’t like” to take my inhaler because it’s mostly inconvenient.

 Guess what? I like that my inhalers help me breathe. Sometimes that doesn’t outweigh the inconvenience, the self-consciousness, the fact that I have to be reminded every day that my lungs suck at that on their own. And I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t like that sort of reminder on a daily basis—sometimes multiple times a day.

So, presenter lady, now you know why. At least from my perspective, you now know why “people don’t like to take their inhaler or forget to take their inhaler“.

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.