Battling an Asthma Episode and Illness When You Live Alone

Currently I am battling a sinus infection, bronchitis and an asthma flare – the trifecta of winter illness. Being sick is hard, but it can be even harder when you go through it by yourself. In my house my only roommate is the 4-legged kind, and although he does his best to support me when I’m not feeling well, my dog is basically useless when I’m sick.

I have lived solo for over a decade and I love it. But, when I’m sick not having a family member, partner or even housemate to help is challenging and sometimes scary. Over the years I’ve developed a plan to be prepared for when an asthma episode or illness pops up.

Quick contact with my medical team

I’m lucky to have great insurance and providers. I can reach out to the many members of my medical team easily and quickly. I can email my doctors or pharmacist. I can talk with a charge nurse or doctor-on-call to ask for advice or get a prescription. By talking to my care team at the first sign of symptoms, we can create an action plan to keep symptoms from getting worse and harder to treat. Depending on my symptoms, I can sometimes get away without a doctor visit, but other times I’m directed to go straight to the emergency room.

Soothing staples at the ready

The last thing I want to do when I don’t feel well is run to the store for supplies. I always have a few of my favorite things stocked in my kitchen for when I need them.

  • My favorite tea, fresh lemons and honey. Tea with lemon and honey is so soothing. I also have fresh ginger on hand, so I can brew hot, ginger tea. Ginger is reported to have many health benefits; reducing inflammation and helping with nausea.
  • A container of homemade chicken broth in the freezer. This is quickly defrosted for a nutritional drink (a cup of warm broth is perfect when you’re too ill to eat) or base for a healthy soup. It may be an old wives’ tale that chicken soup is healing, but I’m a believer.
  • Soft tissues, lip balm and cough drops.

Ways to occupy myself

I have a few go-to activities to keep me from being bored, lonely or feeling sorry for myself. I love to knit, so I dig into my yarn stash and start a new project. I enjoy listening to podcasts, so I find podcasts that are funny or teach me something interesting. To reduce my exposure to perfume samples, I no longer read print magazines and instead subscribe online. My tablet is perfect for reading my favorite magazines or books, playing online games and watching videos to learn a new knitting skill. (These activities are much more enjoyable when I’m wearing my favorite pajamas. If you’re going to be in bed all day, it’s important to be comfortable.)

Reaching out to my support system

My family and many friends live on the opposite coast, but I always let them know when I’m sick. Even though I’m sad they can’t stop by with my favorite ice cream, it’s nice to hear them say they hope I feel better. I enjoy their continued check-ins by text, Skype or call. I reach out to asthma online communities for support. My local, in-person support system includes friends, co-workers and my neighbors. When you live alone, it’s nice to know that your neighbors will notice if they don’t see you for a few days.

Accepting help when it’s offered

This one is tough for me. I enjoy being independent and I don’t want to inconvenience anyone to help. I don’t want to be a bother. However, I’ve come to realize that when friends offer to help, they really want to help. I have definitely relied on friends to come by and make sure I’m still alive, walk my dog or bring me a surprise treat. I can’t thank my friends enough for being so thoughtful.

Writing this post has reminded me that even though I live alone, I’m not alone. What are your tips for surviving an illness when you’re by yourself? Share in the comments below.

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