Living with asthma at 16 years old

Living with asthma at 16 years old

“Hi!”, I said to the nurse. Now, I know most of the doctors and nurses in the hospital. Even the pretty receptionist greets me with a warm smile each time I enter the hospital. Most often, I am unable to respond to her due to severe breathlessness and wheezing in my chest!

Yes, I have been living with asthma since childhood. I have been a regular visitor to this hospital that’s very near to my house. So, it’s convenient for us to drop in each time the attack becomes severe. The life is different for me than my friends’. It’s more restricted with lots of dos and don’ts. There is no freedom in my life. If you are wondering how people live with asthma, here’s how a usual day holds for me.

Morning hours

The morning hours are rush hours for me just like everyone else with lots of routine tasks to do. But, I cannot exactly rush into chores as quickly as others. It makes me feel breathless. I have to take it easy and do things slowly. 

I have seen Mr. Bean brushing his teeth and getting ready on his way while driving because he is late for a dentist’s appointment. I remember the episode name as well; it was “The Trouble with Mr. Bean.” I would love to try doing it the way he does! It would be so much fun! But, I fear I might get an asthma attack.

My movements have to be slower than others’ because when I work fast, the muscles in my body need more oxygen. But, my lungs are not capable of breathing so fast to supply more oxygen to my body. So, morning rush hours are not so ‘rushing’ for me. Because of this, I have to get up a bit earlier so that I can complete bathing and other stuff at my own pace without getting late!

Starting the day

The first thing that goes in my pocket when I am leaving for my college is my puff. For others, it’s the mobile! My puff is a part of my existence. Without it, I feel insecure. Plus, I also have to carry other medications I need to take during lunch break. Once, I forgot to take the medicines to school, and then, my mother had to rush to hand over my medications to the school attendant. So, I make sure I carry all medicines without fail to avoid getting asthma attacks and also, not to bother my mom to leave her work and come to school. 

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

I love to have my breakfast and dinner with my family. But, in college, I prefer to be alone. I eat my lunch all by myself. I do not like to interact with others. They make me feel less competent. Though I have proved myself again and again in studies, the tag of being an asthmatic doesn’t let me be a part of the boy’s “Cool Group.” 
Living with severe asthma has reduced my self-confidence. It does make me feel less able than others.

So, I would rather be left alone to have my lunch than being surrounded by boys and girls who have all the freedom to enjoy their life the way they want to. This also helps me avoid situations when they offer me something that I cannot eat.

Yes, there are several foods like peanuts, melons, and berries, which I cannot eat because I am allergic to them. I cannot even eat fries for a few days after I have had an attack. Cold drinks are out of question for me. I would rather settle for lemon tea; don’t want to invite the wrath of asthma by drinking cold beverages that cause congestion in my chest!

What about the medications for asthma?

I am using bronchodilators , and decongestants on a regular basis. That’s not all! I have to take puffs from the inhaler device each time I get an attack. I also have to take steroids for a few days after getting a severe attack. 

Taking medications has become a reflex action in my life.

The moment I finish my breakfast, my hand reaches out to my medicine box. I have to take 3 medications in the morning, one in the afternoon, and 2 at night. That’s 6 tablets in a day. It’s almost the same number as my grandpa takes for hypertension, diabetes, etc.

Life with asthma has made me much older than my actual age! I am young in terms of the number of years; but I feel I have become really old when I think of my health.

Prevention against shortness of breath, and allergies

Over a period of time, I have realized when and why I get an attack of asthma. My parents have helped me identify substances to which I am allergic. Since my childhood, they maintained a diary in which they noted down all the foods I ate. 

Even the weather changes were noted down. This was correlated with the incidences of asthma attacks so that we could identify the foods or weather changes that were causing allergy. This has helped me a lot. It has become much easier for me to avoid asthma attacks.

What are the daily limitations and what are the fears?

Limitation are plenty! No outdoor activities, no cold beverages, no participation in sports events, and lots more. We also have to avoid long vacations away from our city.

The fear of getting an asthma attack is so strong that anything that I plan to do has to be discussed thoroughly with the doctor and even among family members. It’s like my every move is being watched and guided by asthma.

What would be my life with asthma in the future?

I do take my medications regularly and follow all the possible precautions to avoid asthma attacks. But, the problem is there are too many allergens some of which are still not identified. So, it’s very difficult to imagine a life free from asthma.

Plus, there are certain factors like weather changes and pollution, which are beyond my control. I try my best to keep a watch on what I eat and what I am exposed to. I still maintain the diary and note down these things. It helps me a lot. 

However, what worries me is the more attacks of asthma I have, the more damage there is going to be to my lungs. So, I am at a risk of developing serious lung conditions like emphysema and COPD when I get older. This fact makes me highly anxious.

What are the risk factors?

One thing I am very sure about is I am never going to touch a cigarette in my life. I know smoking is the biggest risk factor for most lung diseases and asthma is one of them. I urge others to stop smoking in my presence as passive smoking can also affect my health.

What is the evolution of asthma?

Recently, my asthma attacks have reduced. Thanks to mom and dad who have made great efforts to identify the allergens. I hope, over next few years, the attacks will reduce further, and I will be able to live a near-normal, if not completely normal, life.

Are there psychological effects of Asthma?

Fear! Anxiety! These are the emotions that grip me most of the times. Every morning, I get up thinking how would be my day and hope I don’t get an attack. I want the freedom to live my life without worrying about an asthma attack. I want to live like everyone else and enjoy long vacations, and sports events. But, I can’t! Why did this happen only with me?

This thought depresses me a lot. On some days, I feel hopeful; but each time an attack comes, I feel being pulled back a step behind. Will my life ever be normal? I don’t know, and this uncertainty takes the breath out of me, literally.

Dr. Jyothi Shenoy

Written by Dr. Jyothi Shenoy

Dr. Jyothi Shenoy is a doctor having a clinical experience of more than 15 years. She has an expertise in treating acute and chronic diseases like obesity, IBS, asthma, arthritis, Autism, ADHD, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, allergies, cancer, infections, and skin diseases. She believes in treating the patients in a holistic manner. She aims at educating the patients about the illness and providing tips related to their lifestyle and diet to ensure a long-term relief from the disease and preventing its recurrence.