Asthma Purgatory

Whenever the weather is bad, so is my asthma. My lungs are extremely sensitive to humidity in the air and/or the slightest changes in barometric pressure. Changes in the climate, changes in the seasons, you name it…. my lungs will react to it. I’m a walking weather station!

Well, it’s been raining on and off here in the San Francisco area for almost a month now, and while I love stormy wet weather, my lungs absolutely hate it.
For the past week, I’ve been in that old familiar breathing zone that I call “asthma purgatory”. You know, when your peak flows are only slightly off , but you feel like your suffocating anyway? You’re tight, but you’re not gasping for air? You feel like someone is sitting on your chest, but you’re not wheezing? You’re sick, but you’re not sick enough to warrant an ER visit. Ever feel like that? Well, if you’re a chronic lunger , chances are you have. In my case I think the symptoms are due to a mix of air trapping and some mild airway obstruction caused by the damp environment and possibly by last weeks extra long walk.

For lack of better words, I get these “breathless flare-ups” several times a year, and unless the symptoms snowball into a true asthma emergency, I usually just ride them out by taking extra neb treatments, doing some diaphragmatic breathing exercises and basically just trying to chill . Sometimes I have to take a little Ativan to take the edge off, but for the most part there’s not much you can do except wait it out, which can take days or even weeks. I just wish it wouldn’t happen so close to a big race or an overseas trip…makes it even more nerve racking.

For me, the key to surviving these mini flare-ups without going crazy (or ending up in the hospital), is refusing to get stressed out about by them …..which can be very difficult when you can’t breath . Rather, than giving into the feeling of helplessness that these breathless bouts bring on, I will often tackle them head on by forcing myself to exercise despite my increased shortness of breath. This morning for example , I will go to the Gym to do some easy exercise. I probably won’t be able to spend much time or walk very fast on the treadmill, but the mental boost it will give me, will last all day!

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7 thoughts on “Asthma Purgatory

  1. I am definitely familiar with this territory you are describing. I think you hit it bang on there. Hope you will be breathing easier very soon..


  2. Hi Steve,

    I hope you are doing better.

    The below would probably be considered off topic. But, I respect your professional opinion.

    Do you have any opinions on Buteyko? It seems the UK is unwilling to poo-poo it, and I believe they have given it some credence. The comment that has always diverted my attention from it was the simplistic comment of “Over breathing” and the perceived exercises limiting your breathing/oxygen. Also, the reluctance of the US to look at it seriously.

    The recent economic events and lack of oversight by the over seers, and the greed of pharmaceutical companies has tainted, to a larger degree, the sincerity of the USA health industry in my eyes. Bottomline: I can easily imagine the USA not funding any research on Buteyko due to pressure from large medicine. Perhaps I’ve watched too many movies.

    I know there is a relationship between O2 and CO2 in the blood and that there is more to it than just “in with the good, out with the bad”. The Bohr effect seems to possibly offer some sort of physiological explanation of the “over breathing”.

    Anyway, I’ve started to try and only breathe out of my nose to limit air volume and see if there is any noticeable effects.

    What do you think about Buteyko? Thumbs up or thumbs down….or something in the middle.

    I hope you don’t mind commenting on this.

    Thanks much.


  3. Hi Jay, I’m afraid Id have to give them 2 thumbs down..way down! And that’s being kind. Charlatans is probably a better word.

    They put on a good spiel about CO2 and hyperventilation , but they’re not telling us anything new. Everyone knows that a build up of CO2 in the blood is not good.
    The science behind their claims is a bunch of nonsense and some of it borders on ridiculous. And while some of the techniques might work on people with very mild asthma symptoms, you could probably achieve the same response with plain old relaxation techniques.
    Whats most disturbing though, is that someone gullible enough to buy into this “method”, might actually hold off getting conventional treatment and potentially die of an asthma attack in the process.

    Im all for holistic alternatives, but this is pure nonsense.

    I wonder what they’re charging now to cure asthma?

  4. The humidity one is always not fun for me, either.
    My friend and I were talking today [before I read this post!] and we were kind of like “season-wise, it’s one thing or another with asthma”.

    I hope breathing starts getting easier for you soon!!

  5. I hear ya! I’m in purgatory right now too (but I am sure not nearly as bad!). Hopefully the quick-and-dirty drugs are not in your future…they are such a pain!

    Hope you’re breathing better soon!

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