Importance of Maintaining Control of Asthma and Allergies

For the last 34 years of the 35 years of my existence, I have lived with asthma and allergies. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s though that I finally got them both under control. Before that time, I suffered a lot from lack of treatment for various reasons. I believe a lot of it affected my self esteem.

For most of my childhood I rarely visited a doctor because of my asthma and allergies. One main reason, neither one of my parents, who divorced when I was four, had medical insurance. My dad though, attempted to “treat” my asthma flare ups with bee pollen pills he purchased from a local health food store. Of course, they did not work. I resented when I had to stay inside and rest while everyone else was enjoying playing around.

I recall so many times crying because I was frustrated and angry I couldn’t be “normal” like everyone else. When I lived with my grandparents, my nana whom I believe was a little of a hypochondriac, would not allow me to go outside when the pollen was high or it was freezing cold. If it was snowing I wasn’t allowed outside to play with my friends. I do remember often being in a daze from medications she gave me before I would go to school. I was often taunted by my teachers and peers because I would be off in lala land.

In the sixth grade I became seriously ill with a severe case of bronchitis. That resulted in me staying in the hospital for eight days. That was the first time I remember receiving breathing treatments, although I am sure I was given them when I was a baby (first diagnosed with asthma).

I remember so many times my asthma flaring up and me laying on the couch or propped up in my bed fighting to breathe while siblings and friends could freely run around, or even sleep. As I got older I remember many times waking up grabbing my chest during a nightmare because I could not breathe, which really was the case.

The scariest event that happened to me was when I was 18 and had no insurance. My asthma flared up to the point I had an attack, could not breathe and started hyperventilating. A friend took me to the ER where they immediately took me in. When my blood pressure was checked, it was sky high to where it concerned the nurses. After things settled down I learned from one of the nurses that  a young girl close to my age had an Asthma attack that resulted in her going into a coma and passing away.

While I have not had another episode like that, I have come close over the years. Of course, I have learned too, what can trigger my flare ups. I also have allergies which can aggravate my asthma at times. About two years ago I made the decision to go a local allergy clinic to set up a treatment plan for my asthma. It wasn’t my first time to make this goal either.

Right after my first child was born, I had an allergic reaction to some foods I typically ate. It scared me so bad that I went to the dr then, who tested me and let me know what I was allergic to. The treatment plan didn’t last long because I got so depressed when I got home with a bag full of pills, inhalers and a spirometer along with a list of things to do and not do. I didn’t want to live my life that way.

I’ve always been that with my asthma. I felt in childhood it held me back from so many things. I hated spending the night at certain family and friend’s houses because I knew it would trigger an asthma attack. My family couldn’t afford for me to go to the doctor so I suffered miserably.

The biggest slap in the face had to come when my ex husbands grandmother who was in her 80’s had asthma, could out do me by a long shot with the spirometer. I was definitely discouraged and frustrated. In fact, I thought the rest of my life asthma would consume me along with my allergies.

In 2006 I had another scary moment with my asthma. What I thought was a bad case of the flu turned out to be a bad case of pneumonia. That put me in the hospital for four days. I was a single mom of three kids at the time. The doctors and nurses begged me to stay in the hospital to get rest and let my body heal. One lung was completely covered with pneumonia and the other was just starting to show signs of it.

Going back to the allergy clinic was the best decision I ever made. It took me close to a year to finally get my asthma under control and pass the spirometer tests with flying colors. It was the greatest feeling to hear my doctor say how pleased he was with my progress! At the same time I made the decision to start Immunotherapy Treatment (IT), allergy shots. I did kind of backslide with it for a while, but I made the decision to start back and keep persisting.

I’ve been told that in about two more years I will be tested to see how much progress the IT has done for me. I could be doing the IT for a maximum of five years, though I hope it is less than that. Even after just a year I can tell that I am doing better with my allergies.

I am able to sleep so much better since I have gotten my asthma under control. I can enjoy the outdoors, especially the long hikes I do with my friends and family. I am also doing better at keeping up with people in my life, like my kids. I look forward to the time I no longer have to do the IT shots and can avoid taking allergy medications and hopefully rarely use my inhalers.

I feel for my friends, family and even other people who do not have insurance or even a clinic they can go to for medications for their asthma and/or allergies. For years I had family and friends who gave me their used inhalers or even new ones. I even had some of them let me use their nebulizers. Had it not been for them I am not sure where I would be today.

And if I have any friends or family in need who are uninsured, you can bet I will be helping them the way they helped me. Asthma can affect a persons ability to sleep, eat, even do daily routines. Eventually it can destroy their self esteem.

For now, I just have to maintain consistency with my asthma and allergy treatment plan.


I can recall in childhood my hands mysteriously swelling and remembering how painful they would get. I just assumed it was related to my Asthma getting ready to flare up. I remember having some difficulty swallowing and sometimes getting painful indigestion assuming it was related to food allergies.

It wasn’t until I was a grown adult, mother of three kids that things started to fall into place. I still had my hand swelling issues sporadically, but then it started in my face and feet. Another scary issue emerged about a decade ago with  me having difficulties swallowing. Back then it was as if I had not chewed up my food enough. Now, it sometimes gets to the point the food gets stuck where I cannot swallow, cough it up or breathe.

My last incident with the swallowing was about three weeks ago when I went out to eat with my family. I had one of those moments of shear panic as well as embarrassment when I went to swallow and the food got stuck. I tried drinking and it came back up because there was no where for it to go. It even came out of my nose and I was scared because I couldn’t do anything productive for a short time, which felt like an eternity.

I have had worse moments in the past though. I remember going to a WIC party for my youngest son at the local health department about six years ago and eating, then my food getting lodged in my throat. I was in horrible pain, could not swallow and I couldn’t drink anything. One of the nurses took my son so I could go to the bathroom. I couldn’t cough it up and I was trying to force myself to throw it up and I couldn’t. After about 30 minutes of going back and forth to the bathroom, I finally was able to swallow.

Why I have waited so long to do something about things is for several reasons.  There were times I did not have insurance, I don’t like doctor’s offices and I honestly thought no one would believe me.

Then recently, things had started to get more mysterious. Every so often when I would get in the shower, my face, lips, hands and/or feet would just swell. I first assumed it may have been from shampoo or soap or even what the towel had been washed in. However, all the soaps used had been soaps I have used for a very long time. Still though, I thought no one would believe me.

A few days ago during a shower, the right side of my face really started swelling and then my lips. It was scary to look at my face in the mirror. That same day I went out shopping with a friend and noticed my hands were mysteriously swelling. I tried pushing the shopping cart, which was a big mistake. My hands started really swelling to the point it hurt.

I waited about three days and then went to go get my allergy shots. It was then I shared with the nurse about the swelling issues. She immediately insisted I go make an appointment to get in to see one of the drs or FNP’s. Luckily for me there was an opening the next day. I still thought though that it would be chalked up to minor things.

Not so much.

I did my routine questionnaire thing, then the spirometer for my Asthma, which was great. Then the FNP came in and started asking me questions. See, I have been having constant (almost daily) indigestion. My throat is still swollen even after the incident weeks ago. I have also started having severe bouts of nausea almost to the point of vomiting. There are times I have had attacks of diarrhea for unknown reasons although I assumed it was either something bad I had eaten or something I had eaten that I could be allergic to.

After going over everything I have been experiencing, the FNP strongly suspects I have Angioedema. She immediately ordered blood work (like 6 vials). There is suspicion I have the hereditary form of AE, or HAE. My maternal grandmother had Lupus and I believe she also had angioedema as I remember her often being in pain from swelling.

For once I was relieved that someone believed me about the strange things going on with my body. It was scary though to read about what angioedema is besides what my FNP shared with me about it. My epi pen won’t work with attacks, if my throat starts swelling I have to immediately go to the ER and typical antihistamines will not work, which makes sense since I have remembered in the past taking antihistamines and still being miserable as all get out hours later.

In early 2013 I will be doing a more thorough food allergy test and also see a gastroenterologist.

For now, it is a wait and see game to see which form of AE I have and then go from there.