As a person with life long asthma, my exacerbations usually develop slowly, sometimes over several days affording me enough time to take some type of pre-preemptive measure. But last week I experienced an acute asthma attack that came on instantly and out of nowhere.

At the time, we were in the sleepy little town of Martinez about 8 miles from where we live. We went there basically to do a little walking and some window shopping. The streets in the village there are tree lined and there’s a lot of a greenery around, but normally the environment there doesn’t bother me too much. On this particular day though, from the moment I stepped out of my car I could feel my lungs start to react to something. After walking less than 2 blocks, I could hear myself wheezing and felt like a ton of bricks were sitting on my chest. I started sucking on my inhaler, but it just wasnt cutting it, so we decided to call it quits and return to the car. In less than 5 minutes from the time I first noticed my symptoms, I was in full bronchospasm gasping for air. At one point I got so tight I thought I might suffocate to death right there on the sidewalk. Seriously, that’s how bad it was.

Lucky for me I had a couple epi pens in the car ( Ok they were both expired, but whatever). Doug ran back and got them. I jammed the first one into my left thigh, but I couldn’t feel any effect from it, so a minute later I jabbed myself with a second pen. The second hit must have worked because my heart was racing like crazy. I was shaking like a leaf, but within a couple minutes I was able to breath a lot better. Thinking that the crisis was over we headed home, but after a few hours I just couldn’t get back to baseline, so to be safe we went to the ER. I responded well to the continuous nebs and reversed much quicker than I usually do. Even so, they decided to keep me in the ICU for a couple days for good measure.

Anyway, a few days after getting out of the slammer, Im checking out my peak flow stats and I notice this……..

chart pf

It’s a little hard to see from this small graphic, but attack I suffered had pretty much forecasted itself. The warning signs for the perfect asthma storm were right there in the graphs. If you look in the highlighted area of the chart, the correlation between pollen count and my peak flow and FEV1 is pretty dramatic. As the pollen levels started to rise, my PFs started to fall. What probably did me in though, was the predominate pollen in the area, probably the trees. One thing’s for sure, I obviously have a significant allergic component to my asthma, but who knew things could get so bad so quickly.

Pollen Count, Martinez, Calif
Pollen Count, Martinez, Calif

So, was this acute flare up preventable? In hindsight I think it was. Had I paid more attention to the pollen-peak flow trends, perhaps I wouldnt have put myself in a situation what would make me sick. In any case, there’s clear evidence here, that in fact smart peak flow meter apps,like the one Im currently beta testing, are helpful in predicting and alerting the user of the potential for certain types of attacks. The trick of course is to follow through with this information to hopefully prevent the attack, or at least avoid the triggers that might cause the attack.

UPDATE: ( Oct 10th,2016( The app is now available! Check it out!

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2 thoughts on “Can air quality apps help prevent asthma attacks?

  1. Darling Stephen,
    So glad to hear from you. I was beginning to get worried.
    I have joined the British Lung Foundation patient forum. Bowled over by the care and support given to members by other members. Very informative and helpful.
    A great help with trying to get some clarity around a diagnosis. It is looking more and more like Obliterative Bronchiolitis. Unfortunately there is no medication. Tomorrow I am going to see difficult asthma consultant. Makes me giggle because I have a puerile sense of humour.
    I will let you know how difficult he is.
    One breath at a time, hang in there. And avoid the pollen.
    Kate xxxx

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