Living With Asthma

Today I woke up with a funny feeling in my lungs. It was like a tickle that no matter how much I hacked and coughed just wouldn’t go away. There was a light constriction to my breathing so I pretty much knew right away this wasn’t just some normal run of the mill congestion (it is that time of year after all).

As a child I regularly in and out of various doctor’s offices. Between my allergies, constant ear infections and various breathing difficulties, you could say I wasn’t exactly a healthy child.

Back then I probably never imagined that I’d be able to do the sorts of things I regularly do now, like running (which I’m on and off with, but…) or the sort of manual labor I’m regularly performing on my house.

But I guess I sometimes just take it for granted that I’ve outgrown those childhood illnesses. Which might be hard to imagine considering how much trouble I have with things like the previously mentioned running. But most of my trouble early on comes from bad feet. It’s not until I’ve run a ways that I generally start having any indications that my lungs might be working a little beyond their usual capacity. At least when I’m in the swing of things (I go back and forth between long stretchs of not running at all and running nearly every day – usually takes me a while to build back up).

Well I’m just getting past one of the reentry phases for my running. It’s been at least a year and a half since I’ve last been running on any sort of regular basis. This time has been pretty gruelling as far as getting back up to speed (pardon the pun). The endurance is certainly not there and my pace is somewhat more than that of a snail.

What surprised me is that I generally wasn’t having the usual sort of lung pains that usually plague me when I first start out. Despite the sound of things, I don’t think that these are generally a bad thing, just a sign that it’s time to take a break. Most of the problem has just been getting my leg strength back up. I’ve gained at least ten pounds since I was last running and I certainly haven’t been as active in other ways as I used to be so my overall stamina is a little bit less than what I had gotten used to.

The last few times I’ve been running have felt great. My pace was picking up and it was starting to feel like I could probably push my distance up a ways (I’m still in the very early “running two miles is an accomplishment” phase). My goal, after all, is to run another 5k and not feel like I’ve had everything taken out me when I’m done.

Well last night was different. I felt fine when I started, but the air was a little cold. Ok, the air was a lot cold. My legs felt great, though, so I pushed myself. I only ran a short distance: I was more interested in testing my pace. So I ran as fast as I felt comfortably able to do. I can’t say that I set any speed records, but considering the slow pace I started out at, I felt pretty good about it the overall time. It set a baseline at least.

However, when I got home, I couldn’t stop coughing for a while. I didn’t think too much of it at the time. I figured that it would pass pretty quickly and, for the most part, it did. But it felt like my lungs were a little more ragged out than usual for the rest of the night.

Then I woke up this morning feeling like there was something thick and gooey in my lungs. I pretty quickly got up and took a very hot shower and took a couple of puffs off my inhaler. I was feeling better pretty quickly, but it was definitely a little bit startling.

The fact is, I have asthma. I guess you could say I’ve tried to forget about it and tried to push myself past it, but it’s still there and it’s not going to just go away. I need to take precautions.

For those of you not familiar with it, asthma can be a very scary disease. Especially as a child when you’re struggling to get a breath – it’s just not the sort of thing I would wish on anyone.

Of course, as an adult the fear takes on a new angle. It’s not so much the “oh my god, what’s happening” sort of fear as the “what am I going to do” sort of fear.

Once I was starting to feel a little better I did a little bit of quick research this morning. A couple of things quickly jumped out at me. First, cold air is a common trigger. That should have occured to me, but I just haven’t had an issue with it in so long that it didn’t. This one could be a little harder to deal with.

The other thing that I found was a lot of information to support the connection between caffeine and asthma. You see, I’ve always know that caffeine was helpful in the event of an asthma attack. The problem is that this isn’t the sort of thing you hear people mention except in the sort of “folk remedy” sort of talk that sounds a bit fishy. I don’t even recall where I first heard it, but it’s always been one thing I’ve just sort of accepted.

Generally, for the last few weeks when I knew I was going to come home and go for a run, I’ve been stopping to get a double espresso. I assumed that this was helping me more in the energy boost than in the breathing, but this site shows that there is definitely a strong benefit to this practice.

It turns out that when caffeine is broken down in your body, one of the products is theophylline, a bronchiodialator. Well theophylline was one of the primary asthma drugs I was given when I was young.

It’s amazing what you can find online. I also found this site, which gives lots of good information about the relation of various allergies to asthma, including food allergies – which is an area that was never well explained (probably because it wasn’t well understood) when I was a kid.