A carpet that has lungs on it

How My Asthma Reacted To Ripping Up Carpet

I recently wrote about my anxiety related to buying our 120-year-old home, and the prospect of ripping up the 20-year-old, high-pile carpet throughout the entire upstairs. I’m back to say that maybe we should have hired someone to do the dirty work.

I have never been much of a DIY person. I’m crafty, I love to embroider, paint, draw, doodle, and create. I admire art, craftsmanship, and the work that goes into detailed projects. I’m a sucker for HGTV shows about flipping houses, demo work, and the beautiful end results. The keyword is “end results.” I love how things look after the literal dust settles. What was I thinking? Well, I was trying to save some money. We did just buy a house, after all.

How I prepared for it

About a week before our planned work, I called my allergist’s office. I see them once monthly for 3 allergy shots that include serum to combat my pollen, dogs, cats, and dust mites allergies. As the rule goes, when my allergies are triggered, so is my asthma and vice versa. I said that I wanted to postpone my next allergy shot appointment for the following week. I explained that I was afraid of how severe my site reactions would be after tearing up old dusty carpet from a place that had been rented out to all sorts of people (and pets).

They told me to wear 2 masks and take 2 antihistamines (I normally take one every day, year-round) on the days we worked on the carpet removal, and the day I come in for my shots. It was good advice, but I didn’t follow it each day we went to the house.

How my asthma held up

Prior to removing the carpet, the season started changing here in Philadelphia. I know the standard protocol: Shower before bed if I’ve been outdoors, keep windows closed on high pollen days, and so on. I had some difficulty with my asthma one night and I blamed it on the season change. I typically only ever have 1 or 2 asthma attacks per year. I no longer own a nebulizer and seldom use my inhaler otherwise. But, there is always a risk that I will stir something up when cleaning (or ripping up carpets) that will irritate my breathing.

Knowing that I was already struggling a little bit, I followed my doctor’s office instructions about the 2 masks and antihistamines...the first day. On the second day, I tossed caution to the wind and only took 1 antihistamine that day. I also noticed that my n95 respirator mask was too big for my face and dust was getting inside. My glasses fogged often, so I decided to remove them pretty frequently to clean them off and take a deep breath by the open windows. Hello, pollen air!

I’m not sure if it was my muscles around my ribcage or my lungs, but my chest ached when I breathed in by bedtime that night. The next day, I doubled my dose as I was supposed to, and decided to wear a cloth mask under the respirator to help fill in any gaps. The next couple of days went about the same. The day after we finished, I had some tightness in my chest, but I was otherwise fine.

Next time I get any renovation ideas, I’ll be sure to listen to my husband and not be so stubborn.

Have you ever done home renovations that led to asthma flares? What steps did you take to prevent them?

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