Asthma Sucks


By Elisa Batista, Moms Clean Air Force

When I was growing up in North Miami, the kids with asthma were easily identifiable. They often sat out in P.E. class due to wheezing — this scary, non-stop hissing sound as they were literally sucking air in. Our P.E. coach would coolly and quickly pull out the students’ inhalers from plastic sandwich bags so that they could take a puff on them.

Years later, I thumbed through a friend’s high school yearbook and noticed an “In Memoriam” page for a young attractive Hispanic woman. She died of an asthma attack in her sleep. It was the first time I realized how serious asthma could be; that it could claim a teenager’s life in the middle of the night.

According to numbers cited by Moms Clean Air Force, every day in the United States:

• 40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma.
• 30,000 people have an asthma attack.
• 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.
• 1,000 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.
• 11 people die from asthma.

That’s 4,000 deaths due to asthma each year, and asthma is a “contributing factor” for an additional 7,000 deaths per year.

Recently, I was visiting my sister in a hospital in New Hampshire when her roommate, a young woman with a Dominican Spanish accent, was wheeled in. She was being hospitalized for…asthma.

Asthma causes hospitalizations. Asthma can kill.

All of this was fresh in my mind when I was prescribed an albuterol inhaler last week. This is my first one in the 34 years I’ve been on this earth.

For a month, I’ve had a cough that alternates between a dry, hacking one and phlegm. They are both awful. Sometimes the coughing is so bad that I feel like I am going to vomit. For conference calls at work, I have to put my phone on mute so that I am not cutting off people with my coughing.

Unlike previous illnesses, I can feel this one in my chest. My doctor hasn’t been able to identify a cause, but she did hear static in my chest. So far, I have had a chest x-ray and have been prescribed a cough syrup with codeine, antibiotics, and an inhaler. With insurance, this cost me over $50, plus a lost day of work. I am a contractor so I don’t get paid for the days I don’t work.

I was nervous about the x-ray because I am the daughter of a smoker and manufacturing worker who brought home all kinds of hazardous chemicals, and I have lived by freeways all my life. Thankfully, the x-ray showed no suspicious dark spots in my lungs.

The antibiotics didn’t work, and I had to stop taking the cough syrup because the codeine was making me woozy. So I am left taking a puff of the inhaler every four hours with very little relief. I am not sure if I am taking it correctly, as I have never done this before. Is it supposed to feel like taking a whiff of hair spray?

Pardon my language, but it has got to suck to do this on a regular basis. As far as I know, I am not an asthmatic. But I am not happy about being sick, having to go to the doctor and having both my exercise routine, work and sleep interrupted by this illness – all which happen to asthma patients often.

And it’s about to get a lot worse for asthma patients. As part of an initiative to help preserve the ozone layer, the Obama Administration is phasing out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which include over-the-counter and inexpensive Primatene Mist (PM) inhalers. At the beginning of 2012, these inhalers will no longer be available, and asthma sufferers will have no choice but to purchase more expensive prescription-only albuterol inhalers that are deemed three times as more expensive as PM and not necessarily as effective.

Many patients who commented at this news site about the new rule were understandably peeved, considering that the Obama Administration also denied an Environmental Protection Agency smog rule that would have done much more to cut down on air pollution and damage to the ozone layer. (The White House, by the way, did not return my phone call and e-mail for comment.)

Maybe he should outlaw air fresheners, household cleaners, bleach, pesticides, herbicides, perfume, nail polish, and hairspray as those products cause the asthma in the first place. - Gail, University of South Florida

…one with COMMON SENSE would think that dealing with older vehicles that drive around spewing toxic clouds of black smoke — which are highly detrimental to the environment and our health — would take priority over inhalers! BUT, I suspect that “our health” is not really the issue here because people driving pollution generating vehicles would not be forced to spend money at Big Pharma… Just saying. -Victoria

Uh, we have much much bigger fish to fry than banning little inhalers.- Thomas, Orlando, FL

I was caught by the number of people in Florida who commented. As a kid there, I always felt that illnesses – especially the respiratory variety – were compounded by the heat, humidity and air pollution. Yuck.

Asthma is no walk in the park, and sadly, it’s on the rise. It’s time to implement common sense solutions so that we can all breathe a little easier.


10 Worst Cities for Fall Allergies
Life is Unfair When it Comes to Clean Air
An Interview with Dr. Philip Landigan, Mercury Expert


Cindy Beckwith
Cindy Beckwith6 years ago

I got adult-onset asthma from mold exposure at my office a few years ago..It took nearly a half-dozen doctors and six months to figure it out..When I finally got the diagnosis, I have had to be on a number of different medications and allergy shots since then to help with my breathing..I, too, complained about not only about the smell of the mold in the office, but my increasing sensitivity to co-workers perfumes and cleaning products, and both were ignored..It was not that it was an "inconvenience", but I literally could not breathe!! I asked to be moved to one of our other offices and it was refused..I was also told I could no longer continue to work there because it would be a "liability". Myself and others got asthma after working there for years, and we will probably have it the rest of our lives...

Myriam G.
Myriam G6 years ago

I had asthma since my early childhood, when I was living in the countryside and had plenty of fresh air and little pollution. Over the years, I had the syrups, the antibiotics when I had bronchitis, and later on, the inhaler. But you know what has helped me the most to control my attacks? Yoga. Simple, inexpensive yoga. It taught me to conciously control my breathing, first at rest, then during light exercise like walking, and finally during vigourous exercise like African dance, moutain hikes, or jogging (something I thought I would never be able to do!). I haven't had an asthma attack in decades. I only need my inhaler when I get bronchitis, and even then, not every time.
I know it ''sucks'' to have to interrupt your regular exercise routine because of asthma, but some types of yoga can still be done while you are recovering. Replacing dairy products by their soja counterparts while sick has helped some people too, including myself.

But, which ever way you choose, getting rid of the traces of infection you still have in your lungs is the most important thing, IMHO. So, I hope you get well soon, Dominic. Take whatever measure necessary. Asthma won't control your life if YOU control your asthma (wow, that sounded pretty lame, sorry, but I couldn't think of a better way to put it.)

Lynn L.
Lynn L6 years ago

What is worst is people's attitudes towards the disability of Asthma. My employer , AT&T , acts as though it is not a real disability since it cannot be seen. I have politely asked, repeatedly to disallow use of heavy cleaning agents in the office ( where the windows are bolted shut ) & for people to not wear excessively heavy perfumes. All I get is harassment & lip service. My senior manager actually was more concerned that an employee's feeling were hurt over a polite request to not use such chemicals & my explanation of what it can do to me-THAN MY ABILITY TO BREATHE. Marie Trottier ,Harvard University's Administrator of Disability Services, says it best on the AAFA.ORG (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ) website "Attitudes are the real disabilities." I have been required to request a written job accommodation ( more lip service , I fear ) even though the Americans With Disabilities Act says they should be in compliance in the first place. I will probably have to sue them over this. It is ridiculous.

Catherine B.
Cath B6 years ago

june t
I have acupuncture weekly and it keeps me as stable as possible, given the high medication I have to take. It was my first line of defense until I had to take the medication all the time. So we use it to help balance (??) the organs and immune system. I am not as well without it for very long. If I get a throat/chest infection then it is a loosing battle so I avoid people with bugs where possible. Besides treating me for the asthma, my therapist also helps me to cope with the side affects and stress it causes. It all helps.

june t.
june t6 years ago

my loved one has asthma, and it is always a worry, I wish there were more things to try. Has anyone tried acupuncture?

Debashis R.
Debashis Ray6 years ago

I became an asthmatic in my late 20s after a childhood of repeated bronchitis attacks. Things got so bad that I considered leaving my regular job. Then I started yoga and pranayama and the attacks became infrequent and manageable. Today at 65 I am practically free of problems and may feel the need for a 'puff' once in a few months. Suggest you try pranayama if you can spare the time-20minutes a day.

Marilyn NOfwds D.
6 years ago

Untreated asthma can do permanent damage to the lungs, so don't ignore it or just try to bear it.

Katherine F.
Katherine F.6 years ago

I think that making the time to consult a doctor instead of just guessing is the fastest and surest way of knowing whether you have asthma or not. Eitherway, you should be careful on spotting the identifiable symptoms when you may have asthma.

Mary L.
Mary L6 years ago

As I'm getting older, I'm discovering I have more allergies and am more sensitive to things like incense smoke and perfumes.

Best of luck in figuring it out. Have you considered using a mask when you go out?

It's very Japanese.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W6 years ago

thank you