Hiking the Appalachian Trail with Severe Asthma
I LOVE the outdoors. I have since I was a little girl. I spent a lot of time outside playing sports for almost my entire childhood. When I became an adult my love for the outdoors didn't change but my asthma started to get in the way when I crossed into the severe category.
This past weekend we drove down to the Great Smoky Mountains for a fun 4-day vacation along with our awesome neighbors/friends. We had been planning this vacation for months and were super excited to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and truly enjoy nature. We rented a house in the woods that was away from town up in the mountains. I grew up and spent my entire life in Southern California until we moved to the Midwest last year, and seeing all of the vivid fall colors was absolutely breathtaking (literally!) The vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges were unlike anything I had ever seen before. We had planned to do pretty much nothing but hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to really take in all that fall had to offer. Part of my bucket list has always included hiking along (at least part of) the Appalachian Trail. Back in California, I have hiked along small parts of the Pacific Crest Trail and I knew I wanted to hike part of the east coast’s version at some point in my life. Knowing we would be hiking a ton, I was sure to pack all of my asthma medications, nebulizer and backup prednisone (per my asthma action plan.) Here are a couple tips that have helped me with planning and going on hiking trips:
Research, research, research!
As asthmatics, we are constantly researching. It's in our nature. We need to know as much as we can about our surroundings so we can be prepared. For my trip, I looked into how far away the closest hospital was to our cabin in the woods (just in case.) It’s one of those things that you might not ever need it, but if you do and don't know where the closest one is, it could be disastrous. I also researched what the altitude would be where we would be hiking as well as the intensity and length of the different trails we would possibly be taking. Altitude doesn't affect everyone, but I am pretty sensitive to it and can tell almost immediately when we’re climbing farther away from sea level. Another thing to check into is what the local foliage will be where you're hiking, especially if your asthma is allergic. Also be sure to check the weather reports so you're prepared for any possibility of changing weather.
Be sure to pack your rescue inhaler &/or portable nebulizer with you and have it somewhere that is easily accessible. Something that I have been getting better at is remembering to stay hydrated! When your body dries out without water, your electrolytes can get out of balance and definitely affect your breathing. Gatorade or other such drinks are also a good option, but you can’t go wrong with water. Also, bring snacks to munch on along the way. If you are hiking with people who don't know you have asthma, be sure to let them know ahead of time so they can help you if needed.
Hike at a pace that is best for you. Be sure to take plenty of breaks to rest and rehydrate. Enjoy your time and being in nature, no matter where you are! Pay attention to any of your specific warning signs that your asthma is starting to act up so you can hopefully nip it in the bud.
We had the BEST time on our hiking trip. Some of the trails were pretty steep, especially at toward the top of the mountain peak we were on. I took my time and the feeling at the top of the outlook was amazing!! I needed to use my Omron Micro Air portable nebulizer once at the top which helped immensely before we headed back down. Here are a few photos from our trip:
How does your asthma change with the seasons?