Thursday, October 18

Elusive asthma triggers: no allergies

Yesterday's trip to the allergist to talk about my asthma was rather uneventful.

I saw things going differently in my mind: I would walk in and talk with the doctor, get poked and prodded, and--voila!--we would find what I'm allergic to and develop a plan to treat it. I would walk out of the office feeling great that finally my asthma was going to be under my control (instead of it controlling me).

In reality, it went more like this: I walked in and talked with the doctor, he explained that I might not be allergic to anything but, instead, sensitive to environmental allergens. I was poked and prodded (oww!) and I didn't have a single reaction. (Good thing: I'm not allergic to my dog!) Since I didn't react to the allergens he tested, it seemed likely the environmental things--things like smoke, dust, pollens, or molds, things he can't possibly test me for since there are hundreds of pollens and molds--and that I would have to do some hard work.

First, we decided to switch up my daily inhaler. It's an inhaled steroid to help keep my bronchioles happy, open, and not irritated. I had previously tried the inhaler he switched me to, but I hadn't tried it with a spacer...

Let's talk about spacers. I had seen these before and always associated their use with really asthmatic people (I don't have a definition of that outside of the thought of them needing to use a spacer, this extra apparatus, with their inhalers). A spacer is a plastic tube with a rubber end where you plug in your inhaler and a mouthpiece end to, well, put your mouth on. The idea is that, with typical puffer inhalers, when you spray the medication into your mouth, most of the medication ends up in your mouth or throat, instead of being successfully inhaled into the lungs. With the spacer, you spray the medication into this tube where it is suspended in the air, just waiting for you to breathe it in. You get more medication in your lungs because you're breathing in medicated air.

So the doctor's thought was that I had tried this inhaler before and not seen results... but I hadn't tried it with a spacer! Trying the medication with the spacer will get more of each spray into my lungs, putting the medicine to work and (hopefully) showing results.

I've got this new inhaler and a spacer to use with ALL of my inhalers. (Yes, "all" of them; I have three--one everyday inhaler, one to use prior to exercise, and one rescue inhaler.) Sounds like enough to try to change the game plan, right?

Wrong. He also wants me to remove any perfumey things from my life. This is not going to be easy. I love scented lotions, body sprays, and air fresheners (right now I'm using "fall leaves" from Bath & Body Works... it's the best!).

He wants me to reconfigure my bedroom so there is less surface area for dust to settle. Meaning I should remove my bookshelf, my books, and my nightstand.

He also wants me to get a dust mite cover for my mattress and box spring. (Not cheap... but it's super icky to think about dust mites. I hate those enlarged photos they show you to prove that they exist. Microscopic bugs are still bugs and they still freak me out.)

He also wants my dog to not sleep in my bedroom. (She has her own puppy bed on the floor; she's not allowed on the bed, but now he wants her out of the room. I think this has a 0% chance of happening because my little dog won't sleep anywhere else if I'm home.)

He also wants me to thoroughly clean my house every week to keep dust to a minimum. (I'm gonna need a smaller house or a maid. I do not have time to do this... I clean my bathroom twice a week and change my sheets once a week, but outside of that I'm lucky if I get any laundry done in my spare time.)

He mentioned getting rid of carpeting, but then I said that I rent (I do) and that it's not my choice. He suggested vacuuming more often (and to have someone else do it since the dust is likely to bother me when it's stirred up).

At this point, the most do-able thing out of all of these is to use the darn inhaler with a spacer. Getting my environment under control is going to take some work. And that still doesn't address any environmental allergens/irritants OUTSIDE of my house. Pollen? Grass? Leaves? Oh, geez, who even knows. Hopefully (HOPEFULLY) in time I will feel better with the new inhaler and my new found control over my environment.

Asthma: you've met your match.

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