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Don’t Pick on the Asthmatic! Or Why Awareness Is Important.

Don’t Pick on the Asthmatic! Or Why Awareness Is Important

So, I grew up with allergic asthma. I also wore glasses. And, yes, there was one time I had black tape holding my glasses together. So, needless to say, I was a nerd prime for picking on.

I had (still do) horrible allergies to outdoor allergens. I’m severely allergic to molds, dust mites, and pollens. So, this caused my nose to itch and run a lot. So, you can imagine I had a snotty nose. I was always wiping it. Sorry, what else do you do? And back then, back in the 70s, there wasn’t much in the line of allergy medicine. So, like a cold, you just dealt with it.

My eyes itched too. So, when I was, like, eight, you can imagine a snotty-faced kid. His face would probably be dirty. Maybe. His eyes were red due to the allergies. You might see him also rubbing his eyes. He also coughed a lot. You get the picture.

His shoulders were hunched. He didn’t run with the other kids. At least this is how it was during pollen seasons. Or, it’s how it was during cold and flu season — if he went to school at all. And he usually did, because he had four brothers and was a tough kid.

One of the kids who picked on me became a good friend of mine years later. I worked with her at A&W when we were both 19. She said, “If I had known you were so sick, I never would have done that.”

We kind of just laughed it off. It’s what you do. You move on. In a way, it made me a better person. It gave me thick skin. That’s something that might come in handy in school in today’s socially insensitive society.

So, fast forward 30 years.

I’m working on a code. I’m managing some person’s airway. My hands are shaking because I was trialing this new medicine called Breo. It was once called Super Advair because it only needs to be taken once a day instead of twice. It worked great for controlling my asthma.

But, it made me shaky. It made me feel nervous. It made me feel jittery. And I was so happy with the results of better asthma control. I was also happy because Breo was free for that year. I went to the website and filled out that coupon. So, I was happy with Breo.

That is, until the doctor, after the code when we were all standing around debriefing, said, “Are you going through detox?”

I know he was joking. I can handle a joke. But, his quip did get me to thinking. And within a month I was at my doctor’s appointment. And I told him I can’t take Breo anymore because of these side effects.

Still, if it wasn’t for judges, I’d probably be satisfied with Breo. It’s just that it makes me look “doubly” nervous in stressful situations. And I don’t like that. So, I’m probably going to stay on Advair for a while.

Now, I don’t know why Advair has fewer side effects for me. It’s probably because it is slower acting. It opens airways slower, and so has milder side effects. It’s dry powder inhaler, but so too is Breo. So, that probably has nothing to do with it.

Regardless, I quit taking Breo because of the judges. So, even in adulthood, we nerds get picked on sometimes. Now, even though it was a lighthearted jab by a doctor I really like, it still made me aware of a flaw. It kind of reminds me of the old saying: “Words Mean Things!”

The unseen illness

I know asthma is an invisible illness. Like, the kid with the broken leg has a cast. He gets all the attention. The asthmatic (me) has an unseen illness. You can’t see it. You can see the symptoms. You can see the snotty nose. You can see the red eyes. You can hear the coughing.

But, there is no Scarlet Letter “A” on the forehead that says, “I have asthma. Give me the respect I deserve.” I do now. I mean, I write about it. I talk openly about my asthma now. Still, most people don’t. This is especially true of kids. So, they should be respected and treated as equals.

So, I think this is where asthma awareness comes in handy. I think the more that is known about our disease, the more understanding people will become. Do you have a story about being teased about asthma? Hopefully not! But, if you do, feel free to share in the comments below.

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.


  • KaraOhki
    2 years ago

    I was born in 1953, and had my first episode at about age two. This was during the dark ages of “it’s all in your head”, and if you were taken seriously no effective treatment was available. I was teased mercilessly through school, by students and teachers.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi. KaraOhki. The psychosomatic theory of asthma was in its prime in the 1950s. But, the good news is that it was also proven false that decade also. It took a long, long time to phase this theory out, though. Just curious, what did you take for asthma in the 1950s? What did you do to cope with asthma? With the other kids picking on you? John. Site Moderator.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi. sue1941. I have memories of my mom using humidifiers. Plus I remember sitting in the bathroom. Those aren’t even recommended as 2nd line asthma treatments anymore. I think there was medicine for us kids, I just think doctors were afraid of side effects. As you note, it’s so amazing how much medicine, and asthma wisdom in general, has improved since then. I think we can both attest to that. John. Site Moderator.

  • sue1941
    2 years ago

    John, your reply to KaraOhki flashed me back to when our infant son (6 months old) developed asthma in 1967 after a bout of croup. There was no medicine for him. We kept a vaporizer going in his room every night – I learned to make it put out lots of steam by throwing a pinch of salt in the water. I sometimes tried to steam him in the bathroom, running the hot water in the shower (son on my lap with bathroom door closed) until there was no more hot water. When he was about 1 1/2, he’d get up on his little hands and knees and rock and rock until the attack was over. Once, when I called our pediatrician at night, he told me that when I couldn’t take it any more he’d meet me at the hospital. But he said all they could do was put our son in a croup tent – and he said that he’d be scared there. But, he went on, when you can’t take it any more, let me know. I cringed and kept on taking it . . . until at about age 2, the pediatrician had me take our son off of all milk products and read all baby food labels to be sure. Bingo – no more asthma! After 6 months, Doc had me give him 1 tsp. of milk for a couple days; no reaction, so 2 tsp. per day until he was back on cow’s milk. The asthma never returned. Now, I have asthma and plenty of great meds that I sure wish were available back then!

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