a plane in the shape of an inhaler flying from the west coast to the east coast

My East Coast Asthma Story: How It Started and How It’s Going

Last updated: April 2022

When I was living in Washington, DC about 10 years ago, my asthma was not just poorly controlled, it was out of control. I was taking two daily controller medicines: a combo medicine, and an extra inhaled corticosteroid. I was getting weekly allergy shots for my dust mite, cat, and dog allergies. I always had reactions to the shots, so I would take over-the-counter allergy meds, my rescue inhaler, and ranitidine on shot days.

I had vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) that would start about 30 minutes after entering my office, so I was attending speech therapy. I did not want to miss work, so I scheduled these weekly medical appointments before work. By the time I made it into the office I was already exhausted. My co-pays for all the medications and appointments were around $500 a month.

On most days it felt like I was working my full-time job just to pay for my second full-time job – managing my asthma.

A trip to California changed things

I went to San Francisco for a conference. As I was walking down Market Street, I noticed something ...different. My lungs felt clear and open. I was taking deep breaths instead of my normal, shallow breaths. My nose was not stuffy, and my voice was not hoarse from VCD. I was able to walk up the steep hills in the city without gasping for air or using my inhaler. What. Was. Happening. I thought to myself, "do I need to live here so I can breathe better?" Were my asthma triggers only found on the east coast?

A few weeks later, I was offered a job in the San Francisco Bay Area out of the blue. I am always up for a new adventure, so moving across the country, accepting a new job and promotion, and hopefully improving my asthma was all too good to pass up. I bought a one-way ticket to the west coast and settled into my new California life.

At first, I had some asthma episodes. Soot from the trains and the port would collect in my apartment. I had the stress of starting a new job, finding new friends, and learning my way around a new city. After my first year, I was able to cut down on my daily medication. By the third year, I no longer needed a controller medicine unless I was sick.

How it's going: My east coast asthma

After over six years of living in California, my asthma was well controlled. I felt like a new person! Then I was offered a position in DC, so I packed up again and moved back east to be closer to my family. I was very concerned that living back in DC would worsen my asthma.

I have been back on the east coast for almost 2.5 years. I am happy to say that my asthma has not gotten worse. I still only need a controller medicine if I get sick. But, thanks to the health and safety precautions many of us took during the pandemic, I have not had a respiratory infection for two years.

I know how lucky I am

Moving to and from California was a risk. Many people who relocate see no improvement in their asthma, or their symptoms may increase. I know how lucky I am to not need controller medicine for now. I also know that I am just one trigger away from that next episode or attack, so I always carry my quick-relief inhaler with me.

Has moving improved or worsened your asthma?

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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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