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“Ohhh, a Flare.”

Asthma flare. Exacerbation. Attack. Whatever you call it, it all means roughly the same thing. And apparently, I’ve been cycling around in an asthma flare for a week now, and it took me six days to figure it out. Never mind that, it took me six days and two phone conversations with Dia on the sixth day to figure it out! When I realized it I was kind of like “Ohhh, a flare,” like Homer Simpson says “Ohh, a gime!” after wondering what a gym is.

How could I not realize it? No clue, I’ve only been at this for ten-and-a-half years now, you think I’d realize when I’m flaring given that I used to have what my friend Steve refers to as “mini-flares” on a weekly-or-more basis. But since getting onto a better-for-me combination of asthma medication, I’ve (thankfully) been thrown off my game!

Blaming the wrong thing. Repeatedly.

Since I didn’t realize I was flaring, I started blaming the wrong thing as the cause of my fairly-mild-but-relentless chest tightness and dyspnea, and increased coughing. While the trigger is probably the weather getting colder (or who knows, honestly!), I started Sprivia a month-ish before this flare hit. The Spiriva had been working near-magically, so much so that I even paid for it out-of-pocket when it wasn’t covered by my provincial pharmacare formulary. Of course, this flare hit the day after I’d paid $60 for this drug, so as I incorrectly pegged the issue as being the Spiriva, I was ruminating this fact! I went from trying to figure out how to get this medication covered, to thinking I’d have to call my doctor to tell her I was quitting it.

It made no sense, though, that it would suddenly quit working well, and I knew it. Therefore, I continued to internally search for a cause. Honestly, the only reason I jumped to this conclusion is because one day in this flare, mere moments after taking Spiriva, I started feeling cruddy. It was way too fast for it to be the Spiriva, I knew, so I knew I was being irrational but it was the only “logical” thing at the time. I’d shaken my Qvar next to my ear, wondering if it were empty. Nope, not even close. I checked the dose counter on my Zenhale, to see 76 puffs remained.
Nothing. Made. Sense.

You know why nothing made sense? Because asthma makes no sense, that’s why. It is practically at the top of the “things that make no sense” list, probably tied with where do lost socks (and pens) even go?

Clicking into place

Then on day six, on my second conversation of the day with Dia while walking across the campus lawn to the bus for a board meeting, it clicked. “So you know what I realized, legitimately right now? That I’m probably just flaring because that is a thing that happens with asthma.”
Like, oh yeah, this is just a normal asthma thing and here I am complicating it with rationality.

In this whole time, I’d done nothing I’d normally do when flaring. I didn’t increase any meds, I didn’t take Ventolin regularly, nothing. Thus, of course, why this actually-a-flare was not dissipating! Thankfully, my symptoms only increased marginally over the 6 days I was failing at asthma. Fortunately, I figured it out eventually, and things have been a fair bit smoother in the 42.5 hours since then!

Ha! Thanks for the trust, all you people who have called me a patient-expert, I actually clearly have no idea what I am doing!

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.

Comments

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Shellzoo – believe me you’re not alone in thinking that you had to be wheezing for it to be asthma. But, as you say, if you’d been educated at the outset, you would have been wise to the other symptoms that you should be watching for. Frustrating, to say the least!

    It’s sounds like you’ve put a lot of effort into making sure you’ve learned on your own. That’s so commendable.

    Best,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    5 months ago

    I am going to advocate for better asthma education in any way I can.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo and thanks for your post. That is commendable to become more of an advocate for better asthma education. Where were you thinking of doing this? Leon (site moderator)

  • LinnM
    5 months ago

    Hind sight, head slap. Every time this happens I say, next time I’ll recognize what’s going on but then it happens again.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    LinnM – We hear you! Isn’t that just the way it is? I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve said and done the same.

    Regards,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi Linn M and Lyn. Isn’t that the truth. I think it has an awful lot to do with ‘denial’. This can’t be happening! It can’t be my asthma!
    We don’t want it to be happening to ourselves (yet again), so rather than admit to it and start early intervention, we wait and wait and wait, until (sometimes) it’s too late.
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    5 months ago

    This sounds so much like me. I am fairly new to knowing I have asthma. I admit I still even have some denial. I don’t think I recognize symptoms as asthma and tough it out most of the time until I really need my Ventolin. Yesterday I had a little cough that became an annoying cough that became the cough that worried my co-workers that led to my becoming short of breath and wheezy while driving home from work. I had used my Ventolin inhaler while at work when the cough reached annoying and felt a little better but after my episode driving home I used it again and finally was breathing better. Today I only cough occasionally and it is pretty mild. I wish there was an asthma educator for when you find out you have asthma. All I got was an inhaler put in my hand, a quick lesson how to use it and sent home. A 15 minute office visit is just not enough time to learn about a condition you don’t want but are stuck with for a lifetime.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Shellzoo – You make such a good point about asthma education. It’s frustrating to those of us in the field that more physicians don’t see the need to have an asthma educator in their office. It could make such a difference in how a person initially deals with their diagnosis and then how it’s managed from then on. What you describe is what happens 9 out of 10 times, sadly,

    I hope your finding the information you need through this site. We’re happy to help any way we can. It’s what we’re here for.

    Regards,
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    5 months ago

    I pretty much had the idea I had to be wheezing for it to be asthma. Sometimes I do wheeze but most of the time I cough because it feels like mucous is plugging my airway, my chest will feel tight and often my throat through my airway itches and burns. Sometimes my chin will be itch before it starts. If an asthma educator had sat down with me and talked with me about what besides wheezing I should be aware of, I really think that would have made me more aware and using my rescue inhaler more effectively at the start of a flare. I was just told to use my rescue inhaler for wheezing. Well I sometimes get the feeling my chest is closing up on me and I don’t wheeze. Now I am educating myself and half tempted to take the test and become an asthma educator but I already have certification in another area to maintain and it is expensive.

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