A woman holding her chest looking scared

My Top 3 Asthma Fears

I have been living with asthma for over 30 years. During this time, I have learned most of what I need to know to manage it effectively. I have identified and reduced my triggers, I have an asthma action plan, I take my medicines as directed, and try to stay healthy by eating well and staying physically active. I feel confident that I can manage most situations. However, there are still things that scare me about my asthma.

Here are my top 3 asthma fears:

My rescue inhaler will not work.

I have been in this situation more times than I would like to admit. Once it was because my inhaler was empty. Most of the time, it does not provide relief because I am having a breathing emergency and need medical assistance. When I have an attack, I fear that the rescue inhaler will not be enough to manage the symptoms, so I will have to go to the emergency room (ER) right away. When you are in danger, trying to keep calm while struggling to breathe, it is a very long and frightening ride to the ER.

An unexpected trigger will make me have an attack in public.

None of us likes to have an asthma attack in public. If my symptoms are not severe, I do not hesitate to use my rescue inhaler in front of others. However, I don't wish to have more serious symptoms in front of others. I have seen the fear in my friends' eyes when I have an attack, and I don't want to worry or scare anyone. Also, I don't like it when others see me in a vulnerable position or see me struggle. Let's face it: An asthma attack during a gathering can spoil everyone's fun.

I will be trapped with a trigger I cannot get away from.

This fear comes from when I was living in the city, taking public transportation, and traveling frequently. There were many times I was stuck on an airplane or train for hours with someone wearing way too much perfume or cologne. Once on a flight, there were 6 dogs in the cabin. They were super cute, but 6 were a little too much for my allergic asthma. There is an instant sense of dread and worry when you know you can't get away from your trigger. What am I worried about? See numbers 1 and 2 above – that I will have an asthma attack in front of the other passengers and my rescue inhaler won't work.

How I manage the fear of the unknown

My guess is I'm not the only one who has these fears. They are not irrational. It is possible, however, to become crippled with fear if we do not manage them properly. This is how people with asthma become isolated. I don't want that to happen, so I try to manage these fears by having a game plan. This is what I do:

  • Always have a portable nebulizer with me. Despite how good my inhalation technique is when I use an inhaler, a nebulizer will always be better for me, especially when I'm in serious distress. Knowing that the medicine will get into my lungs easier provides me a sense of comfort that the inhaler can't.
  • Treat my asthma at the first sign of symptoms. I no longer wait to see if my symptoms are actually asthma or something else (newsflash – it's asthma 99.9 percent of the time). I don't wait for the symptoms to get worse before I take my rescue medicine. The longer I wait, the harder it will be to manage the attack, and the more medicine I'll need.
  • Repeat my mantra – "I've got this." Sometimes we can't change the situation we are in. Despite that, we can manage our reaction to it. I'll wear a mask or cover my face with a scarf so I don't have to breathe in my trigger. I'll ask to move seats on the plane or change cars on the train. By listening to music and meditation apps on my phone, I center myself by focusing on staying calm and saying my mantra – I've got this. By repeating this in my head, I can take my mind off what I cannot control.

What are your asthma fears? How do you manage your fear? Share in the comments below.

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