How To Manage Asthma As A Woman, According To 7 People Who Do It
Though asthma is a common health condition, finding the right treatments for it is not always as straightforward as you'd think. Learning ways to effectively manage asthma can be a process of trial and error for many people with this health issue.
"Asthma causes inflammation and narrowing of your airways, which makes it difficult to breathe. This is dangerous, as all of your organs need oxygen to survive," Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy and Asthma Network, and an ambassador for the Global Allergy and Asthma Patient Platform (GAAPP), tells Bustle. According to WHO, an estimated 235 million people worldwide live with asthma.
Despite being a widespread, chronic condition, the cause of asthma (and its triggers) can vary from person to person, and even from season to season. What's more, research has shown the disorder is more common in women than in men. As the CDC reported, common asthma triggers can include allergens, air pollution, mold, exercise, bad or extreme weather, certain foods, dust mites, and even infections. Asthma symptoms can range in severity, but Parikh says it is "serious condition," adding that there are still 10 deaths every day in the U.S. alone from asthma.
Finding the things that help control your asthma may take time — especially given this condition tends to uniquely impact each and every person living with it. Here's what seven women do to manage their asthma on regular basis.
1. Anna, 29
"To manage my asthma, I use my inhaler if I know I’m going to be doing anything physical," says Anna. "I also moved to a city with cleaner air, which I was lucky to be able to do. It made a huge difference."
2. Michelle, 35
Michelle tells Bustle there are several things that she's found have helped her better manage her asthma, including using a spacer — aka, a holding chamber that makes inhalers easier to use and more efficient by slowing the delivery of medication. What's more, she says that collaborating with her physician to come up with a personalized asthma care plan was also extremely beneficial.
"I've gone from not being able to breathe, to almost no problems," she says.
3. Jordan, 29
"Find a doctor who will meet you where you are. My doctor respects my decision to have pets that I'm allergic to (and helps me adapt to that), and understands that I've found ways to bring cannabis into my self-care routine to protect my lungs," says Jordan. "It's helpful to have a doctor who will take a holistic approach to asthma treatment by really understanding who I am, and what's important to me."
She adds that another holistic way she manages her asthma is by filling her home with plants to help purify the air. "I now have around 90 houseplants in my home; I love them!"
4. Kim, 23
Kim tells Bustle that in order to manage her asthma during the winter months, she makes sure to have a humidifier simultaneously running with an oil diffuser (in addition to the inhaler and VapoRub she uses year round). "During the summer months, it can get really difficult for me to go outside, so I try to check the humidity index and other factors on my weather app. I also sleep in the summer with my air conditioner on," she says. She also says that learning to manage asthma has made her "way more conscious" about her immune system and health than her friends.
5. Christina, 33
"My parents tried everything in the world when I was a baby — until I was three years old — to not put me on steroids, but I had no life whatsoever, and couldn’t play with other children because it would always end in an asthma attack. When I started my steroid inhaler within a month, I was out playing ball, doing ballet, and finally had a life," Christina tells Bustle. "Now as an adult, I’m on the highest dose of Symbicort steroid inhaler, but it’s the only thing that keeps my asthma under control."
6. Paula, 37
Paula says that since her asthma is exercise-induced, she makes sure to take certain precautions when jogging — such as warming up, wearing a scarf over her mouth at the beginning of a workout when she's outside, and seeing her physician to make sure she's using the right inhaler. Since taking those steps, she says, "Asthma doesn't stop me with my ultra-running at all now."
7. Therese, 21
Therese explains that being aware of her asthma triggers — such as exercise and extreme weather conditions — has played a large role in managing her asthma. "Being in tune to how my lungs are feeling, and knowing when to hold back can be difficult," she says. "Over the years, I’ve learned how much is too much for my lungs, which has helped me to identify when I need different medications to prevent asthma attacks."
Asthma may not be curable, but it is a manageable condition. It may take some time, non-conventional ideas, and many conversations with your physician, but learning to comfortably live with asthma is totally possible.