Impending Flare?

Last updated: November 2022

It is no secret that this time of year is a big challenge for people with asthma; late September is dubbed asthma "peak week." Andrea does a great job explaining this further in her post: Peak Week: Avoiding September Asthma Hospitalizations.2

I find October to be a pretty gnarly month for my asthma. I have had severe flare-ups the past four years in October, three of which I spent in the hospital. To make matters worse, my birthday falls in October, so I generally spend it either in the hospital or in my bed watching movies and doing breathing treatments. It is so much fun.

Anxiety of an impending asthma flare

There are enough articles out there about the "why" behind this time of year being rough for those with asthma, so I want to take a different angle. To me, October feels like impending doom.

I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way. When I flipped my calendar from September to October, I instantly felt the anxiety settle in. This fear definitely has some good evidence and reasoning behind it, but it does not make my life, or my asthma, any easier. Fear, stress, and anxiety can also be tremendous asthma triggers. It's a snowball effect: my asthma always flares in October, so I am anxious about my asthma flaring, which can cause my asthma to flare. Good times. 1

The stress of a future flare-up feels kind of like I am in a horror movie. The flare is the scary thing waiting around the corner, behind the door, under a table, etc., and I never know where it is or when it will pop up. As September reached its end, I found myself on high alert. Did I need my rescue medications even more today? Was I extra short of breath or is that just my baseline? Is that coughing fit an average one or is it a warning for something worse?

My strategies for coping

The general understanding in the asthma community when it comes to preventing flare-ups is taking your controller medications and avoiding triggers. I do not need to write about how to prevent a flare-up, but I can write about how I manage the anxieties around a future flare.

  1. If years of therapy have taught me anything, it is that worrying about things you cannot control does not change anything. If you cannot control it, then there is nothing you can do about it! You may be able to control your asthma to a certain extent by following your regimen, going to your appointments, and avoiding triggers, but outside of taking care of yourself, there is really nothing else you can do. If that's the case, and I know I'm taking care of myself exactly how I'm supposed to, then worrying about an impending flare-up won't provide any benefit and only ruins the present.
  2. Practice some relaxation techniques. Different techniques work for different people; I've never been fond of mindful breathing (hello bad lungs!) but I do enjoy sitting on the floor. It is a weird strategy, but I find it very grounding to sit on the hard floor with my back against something. You will frequently find me here coping after a pulmonology appointment or a stressful exam in school.
  3. If all else fails, I remind myself I will be okay. I am no stranger to hospital admissions, and though they are never enjoyable or easy and I have left before in worse shape than when I was admitted, but every time I have been okay. I have made it through every challenge life has thrown at me thus far - me (and my lungs!) are resilient. No matter what happens, I will be alright.

You better believe I will be using these techniques myself as I brace myself for whatever October brings. Hopefully, my March, April, June, July, and September flares were enough for the year and I can enter November unscathed!

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