Sunday, April 17, 2011

Asthma and Cycling: Yep.

Now that a few dry days are ahead, more of us will happily head out on our bikes and not have to worry about cleaning our chains and wheels afterward! However, we'll be out there just in time for the plants and grasses to open up and release their pollen into the air. For people with asthma, this is our annual battle with nature. In the Willamette Valley, nature always gets the upper hand. If we want to enjoy riding bikes or jogging or just being outdoors, we must have a plan for dealing with the stuff that makes us sick. It's horrible when your asthma keeps you sidelined indoors, while there's all this greenery and beauty to be enjoyed outside.
Good roads for riding, and green everywhere in the Willamette Valley
The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program says that about 8% of the U.S. population suffers from asthma. But many more have allergies of one kind or another and there are some clear connections. Asthma, allergies, and eczema often show up in a “combo pack” of sorts. They're all just inflammation of one kind or another, a reaction from an over-sensitivity to something. Like most other folks with allergies and asthma, I am sensitive to certain foods, dust, smoke, pollen, dander, etc. and when I encounter more than my body can tolerate, inflammation happens. I struggle to take a full breath, because inside my lungs, everything is swollen.  Makes sense.
Obviously, we need to be avoid the things that trigger inflammation. But that's not as easy as it sounds, otherwise none of us would be struggling to manage our asthma. The problem is that so many triggers fly around in our air all the time. Also, some of us get asthma when we're merely exerting ourselves physically. So it's not always possible to anticipate the triggers beforehand. That's why we really need a good plan. After nearly fifty years of figuring out what does and doesn’t work, sometimes the hard way, I’ve at least figured out that much.
Why is having an asthma plan so important? Because getting in a jam with this stuff can be serious.  Even fatal. Looking back at the scary episodes I've had, the common theme in all of them was that I had no plan, and therefore wasn’t prepared for dealing with the problem when it happened.
So, what’s a good asthma plan look like? Well, I'm something of an expert in all the non-examples! But I'm also learning a ton and in the next couple of posts, I'll share what I'm learning about recent developments in the last couple of years. It's important to those of us who love being outside. There's hope!


Jessica said...

You had to know I was gonna comment on this one!
Ever since my "plan" was put into action I haven't had an episode where I needed a hospital visit for a treatment. That was 10 years ago!
I take a wonderful preventative medication that works better than anything I had in my whole childhood. I do have to remember to take it though.
I have been struggling this month more than I normally do, but it's spring... I should have seen it coming. I had pretty severe attack this afternoon. One of the worst in years, but I made it home to my meds okay and am breathing fine now.
You're right. Implimenting a "plan" is the best thing an asthma sufferer can do! Looking forward to those next few posts!

Kelly Carlisle said...

It's great to know that a plan makes that kind of a difference! And that it's sustainable over time. Keep the comments coming!

bikelovejones said...

When I was dx'd with "Allergy Asthma" last summer, I was assigned a regimen of inhalers and hopped-up allergy meds. I reported the inhalers to OBRA (racing) officials. Not a problem, they said; lots of racers in Oregon have asthma. Make sure you carry your inhaler in your jersey pocket, and if you need it during a race, pull off the course to apply. Re-enter the course at the exact spot you exited and try to get back on.

The only bummer is that, without health insurance, my selection of available meds is pretty limited to basic inhalers, not the fancy preventative stuff they advertise on TV. (Note: some inhaler manufacturers offer scholarships for the basic meds for those who cannot get/afford insurance. Ask your doc for info.)

Racing season begins in seven weeks. I am hopeful that "my plan" plus a winter and spring spent working out and training will be helpful. Stay tuned.