The Advent of the Flutter
I cannot recall the exact moment when I was given a flutter device by my doctor, or indeed, if I was given one at all. I may have bought it myself. I do know that it was around the late '90s and at first glance I remember thinking, how is this piece of plastic, with a ball bearing inside, going to help me?
How does it work?
For the uninitiated, a flutter device is a small inhaler-shaped instrument with a ball bearing inside. It is nothing like our asthma inhalers. It is not a curative device so you should not use it if you are experiencing an asthma attack. It does not have immediate effects and you exhale rather than inhale. The idea is that you exhale hard, in short, rapid spells, and then exhale into it for as long as you possibly can. The ball bearing rattles around causing reverberations back into your airways. This shakes up the mucus in your system. Doing this a few times allows you to bring up the mucus and make your airways feel less congested. This can also increase lung capacity.
I personally use the flutter in the summer when pollen levels are high, and I start to feel my breathing becoming congested. I usually use it in the mornings and evenings before I take my meds. By doing it in this order, I feel my regular asthma inhalers work more effectively.
I believe there is a connection
I honestly believe that had I not stumbled upon this magical little device, I would have more than likely seen the inside of many more hospital wards. It goes without saying that our knowledge has improved on how we take our medications, so I suppose the flutter cannot take all the credit for keeping me out of the hospital. However, I would argue that this flutter device is just as important as all my other meds in effectively managing my asthma. I would also encourage anyone with moderate/severe asthma to have a word with their primary care provider to see if they can get on prescription. I paid around £70 (approximately 80 US dollars) for my latest model, but there might be a way of getting a device via your doctor.
Do not overuse
One word of caution, be careful not to overuse your flutter. This can bring on your asthma thus having the opposite effect of what you want to happen. I personally take 30-second breaks after each exhalation, otherwise, if I don't, I get a little wheezy. If you keep using your flutter device without any breaks, or if you're exhaling too hard, it can exacerbate your asthma. This really is a wonderful device but it should be used with care and attention. I am so thankful to whoever recommended this to me. I wouldn't do without my flutter now.
I will finish on a really poignant quote I read by a 5yr old girl, who when describing her asthma said: "When I have an asthma attack I feel like a fish with no water."
Does cold weather impact your asthma?