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Newly Diagnosed? What I Wish I Would Have Known

Twenty-four years ago, our lives changed forever when my then 5-year-old was hospitalized for “breathing problems.” The respiratory therapist in the pediatrics wing THEN told me my son had asthma.

What?! I had previously suspected my son had asthma, but my pediatrician told me it was "just a virus."

What have I learned since then?

Are you or a loved one newly diagnosed with asthma? Here are some things I wish I had known.

Trust your instinct

Later, a pediatrician told me he always listens to moms of kids with asthma or diabetes. He said moms are fine-tuned to their kids' diseases and know when something is not quite right.

I learned to trust my instincts and keep pushing for help. There were times when I went to the pediatrician in the morning, an after-hours clinic in the evening, and the emergency room (ER) at night. I KNEW something was wrong with my child. And after a long day, they would be admitted to the hospital for asthma, made worse by pneumonia, RSV, or wildfire smoke.

Asthma is not the same for everyone

Researchers now know that asthma is an umbrella term, and there are different types of asthma. The inhaler or treatment plan that works for your friend, neighbor, or coworker may not work for you.1

Read, read, and then read some more

There are often new inhalers on the market, changes in the national treatment guidelines, etc. Asthma organizations stay updated on these changes and share new info on their websites. You can visit:

  • Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA)
  • Allergy and Asthma Network (AAN)
  •  American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI)
  • American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI)
  • American Lung Association (ALA)

Some of these organizations have videos, webinars, or podcasts. You can listen to their experts and know that you are getting accurate information – unlike That Internet Guy.

Controller inhalers

We have severe asthma and have learned that we must take our controller inhalers every day. They work like an anti-inflammatory to keep the swelling down in our lungs. Otherwise, we would get a cold, which would morph into pneumonia...and another hospitalization for my kids. We try to prevent swelling in our lungs by using our controller inhalers every morning and every night.

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Quick-relief inhalers

These go everywhere we go, especially since asthma attacks are unpredictable.

I also use a spacer with my inhaler so I get more medicine. If you do not use an inhaler correctly, the medicine can land on the back of your throat and you will swallow it. I have terrible hand-eye coordination, so using a spacer allows me to depress the inhaler and send the medicine into the spacer, where I can slowly inhale it.

Remember to check the counter on your inhalers. When the medicine runs out, you will still have propellant in the inhaler, so it may FEEL like it is still working. But it's just propellant, not albuterol. When it shows zero on the counter, it's empty. Time to call and get a refill.

Nebulizers

Some people feel that inhalers are just as effective as nebulizers, but I disagree.

I have had countless sudden asthma attacks, and I cough so hard I have to try to NOT throw up. There is NO way I can breathe in to use my inhaler.

Instead, I will sit (and try to stay calm), while my nebulizer turns my liquid albuterol into a mist.

The same thing happens when I get COVID or pneumonia. I usually cough so hard that I pull a rib muscle. Once again, my nebulizer saves the day. This is what works for me.

Make your space allergy- and asthma-friendly

It is important to have a space that is free from tobacco smoke, mold, dust, strongly scented cleaning supplies, pets, mice, cockroaches, etc. You can use asthma inhalers, but if there are a lot of asthma triggers in your space, you will keep having symptoms. Many websites have info to learn how to make your space allergy- and asthma-friendly.

That was a long list, phew! Thanks for reading!

What do you wish you would have known when you were newly diagnosed with 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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