Colds, Asthma and Straws. What?!

I was hoping that being a germaphobe would keep me healthy this winter. It did for a while.

My daughter was sick, so I knew it wouldn’t be long until I got sick too. I started a “fun cold” and now it’s affecting my asthma. Hubby has a cold too, but since he doesn’t have asthma, he doesn’t usually get as sick as I do.

He had most of the annoying runny nose and sneezing symptoms. But seemed surprised when I told him my chest was tight and I was having a hard time breathing. (You think that after 30 years of marriage, he would know how sick I get by now……)

Asthma and colds

But in all fairness, people who don’t have asthma have a VERY different experience when it comes to fighting colds. They get the usual scratchy throat, runny nose, sneezing, and coughing.

But with asthma, every cold is worse because it also affects your lungs. You end up with a hard time breathing or a nasty cough. I’m sitting on the couch as I type this, yet I am having a hard time breathing. You would think I just ran up a flight of stairs – and I am just sitting and typing!

I used my nebulizer when I was at home, but at work, I use my rescue inhaler from my purse. If I’m REALLY having a hard time breathing, I’ll haul my nebulizer to work.

“This is what it feels like to have asthma!”

When I am giving classes about asthma, I do a little activity called “this is what it feels like to have asthma!”  (If someone in the class has asthma, I don’t have them do the activity!)  I give a coffee straw to each person, then have them jog in place for 30 seconds. Then I have them plug their nose and try to breathe ONLY through the straw.

I want them to “get it” or understand what it feels like to have asthma. So I watch their faces for about 10 seconds as they desperately try to suck through the straw. Then I ask them: “Are you getting all the air you need? How do you feel? Are you starting to panic because you can’t breathe?”

Then I have them pull out the straw. Many people say that not only can’t they get enough air, but they are scared because they can’t breathe.

Welcome to my world! That is what it feels like to have asthma and not be able to breathe.

When you can’t breathe, it is really scary, and you can panic. Then that makes it harder to breathe. It’s a vicious cycle.

Then I tell the class members, “This is what it feels like to have asthma. But for me, I can’t ‘take out a straw’ and suddenly be able to breathe again.”

Most people finally have that “Aha!” moment.

UNC_Chapel Hill has a short lesson about asthma and instructions of how to do the straw game if you want to try it with scouts, a school group, etc.

As with most kids, they will goof off. So be careful that they don’t chew on straws, poke their neighbor, etc. You might want to pass around a trash can and collect the straws.

Well, time to take a break and grab another tissue and throat lozenges. And I better use my nebulizer again.

I hope this just stays as an annoying cold and doesn’t get worse and turn into pneumonia

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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