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Before my last post, it had been quite some time since I talked about my asthma here. It’s probably because I’ve been pretty healthy (knock on wood) for the last 6 months. I recently had a little bit of congestion and made myself take a few extra rest days, but I haven’t had to be on steroids or even see my doctor since December.
But I do have asthma, and so does my 5 year old daughter. Interestingly enough, neither of us has the typical presentation. She has cough-variant asthma – that means that her main symptom is a dry, non-productive cough. As is often the case with cough-variant asthma, she doesn’t have the other “classic” symptoms like wheezing or shortness of breath. She just gets a persistent cough that drives her crazy during the day and keeps her awake at night. (It’s also the kind of cough that elicits plenty of “you’re a horrible parent for bringing your sick kid out in public” looks from the mommy crowd, but that’s for another post.)
I have adult-onset asthma, which is exactly what it sounds like – my symptoms didn’t appear until I was in my mid-30’s. My asthma is usually triggered by respiratory illness, not by running or other forms of exercise, although a flare-up can bench me for days or even weeks.
Running with Asthma
Obviously running with asthma is possible. (I mean, I’m Mommy Runs It, not Mommy Watches Everyone Else Run It.) In fact, it turns out that running can actually be good for an asthmatic, as long as your asthma is under good control. Running can strengthen your respiratory muscles, help you maintain a healthy weight, and lower your risk for heart disease. A runner with asthma just needs to take a few extra steps before putting on her running shoes.
- Before you get started, see your doctor to ensure that your body and lungs can handle the high intensity of running. Your doctor can also help you come up with a written asthma action plan to control your asthma symptoms. And make sure that your treatment plan is working before you start running.
- Carry your rescue inhaler with you at all times. Don’t go on a run without it! My favorite running shorts and skirts are the ones that have pockets that can hold my inhaler. If you don’t have pockets, wear a belt or a pouch.
- Consider using your quick-relief asthma medications (such as Albuterol) as prophylactic or preventive medication. Runners with asthma can take a dose as directed a few minutes before a run to help manage symptoms. I do this sometimes, especially when it’s cold outside and/or I’m recovering from a respiratory illness. I’ve found it to be very helpful.
- Start out slowly. You have to warm up properly in order to give your airways time to adjust to the demands of an intense cardiovascular workout. Starting suddenly will shock your lungs and can lead to an asthma attack. I almost always find that the first 1-2 miles are the most difficult for me. After that, my lungs become adjusted to the demands of my run, and I am able to breathe comfortably.
- Know your triggers and avoid them. Two of the most common triggers are allergens and colder temperatures. It’s not always easy, but try to avoid running outdoors when pollen counts are high. After a run, shower as soon as possible to get the pollen off your hair and skin, and toss your workout clothes directly into the hamper.
- Be smart. Pay attention during your run, and if you start to wheeze, cough, or have problems breathing, force yourself to take a break and use your emergency inhaler. Consider wearing a RoadID or similar tag/bracelet that indicates that you have asthma; in an emergency, this can save first responders valuable time. Run with a friend and/or carry your cell phone. And perhaps most importantly, know your body and know your limits.
sources: livestrong.com, asthma.about.com, womenshealthmag.com
— Sharon (@mommyrunsit) June 23, 2014
What is a Written Asthma Action Plan?
An asthma action plan is an individualized plan that lists instructions for day-to-day self-management, as well as the steps to take in emergency situations. It includes your daily medications, how to recognize the early signs of an asthma attack, when to call your healthcare provider, and when to seek emergency treatment. The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute recommends that “all people with asthma should receive a written asthma action plan to guide their self-management efforts.”
That’s where AsthmaMD comes in – and they’ve done something unique. In our “there’s an app for that” era…well, there’s an app for that. AsthmaMD is a free mobile application that, according to their website, “allows users to easily and quickly log their asthma activity, their medications, and causes of their asthma in the form of a diary. Users may share the diary and a color graph chart of their asthma activities with their physicians to be included in their medical records.” In other words, instead of planning and tracking on a worksheet or in a journal, you can do it directly on your smart phone or tablet.
AsthmaMD is available for free download at the iTunes store for your iPhone or iPod Touch. It’s not currently available for Android devices – and since I’m an Android kind of girl, I wasn’t able to try it out for myself, but it looks pretty cool:
AsthmaMD Peak Flow Meter
I was able to try out their newest product, though – the AsthmaMD Peak Flow Meter. A peak flow meter is a handheld, portable device used to gauge your lung function. It does this by measuring your ability to push air out of your lungs in one hard puff. It’s a simple and straightforward way to track your asthma.
My primary care physician measures my asthma activity with a peak flow meter, and he recommended that I purchase one to track my lung performance at home. This was a couple of years ago, and at that time, a peak flow meter wasn’t covered by my insurance. I can’t remember the out-of-pocket cost at my pharmacy, but I do know that it was unreasonable enough for me to search elsewhere. I ended up purchasing one on Amazon.
My 5 year old and I both tried out the meter. It’s easy to use and easy to read, and it’s a super handy tool for tracking your day-to-day asthma activity. And when combined with the AsthmaMD app, it can help you keep a convenient and comprehensive asthma journal – and this, in turn, will help with the development of an appropriate written action plan.
The AsthmaMD app is available for free download at the iTunes store, and it’s coming soon to Google Play. It can be used with or without the Peak Flow Meter. For more information about AsthmaMD, visit them online and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.