Claire Giantzides shares her experiences and lessons she learned about her health when she became asthmatic.
Up until the grand old age of 33, I didn’t have asthma. Unlike most of my friends with asthma, I’ve only been asthmatic for a year and I’ve learnt a lot in a short time. Now, a year on, I’d like to share the 4 things I wish someone had told me a year ago. These aren’t the results of clinical trials and years of research, they are one woman’s experience which can hopefully help other people with their asthma diagnosis.
- Diagnosis is important
When you go to your GP with asthmatic symptoms such as a persistent cough and wheezing, your doctor needs to confirm your diagnosis. You may be prescribed asthma inhalers to see if this treatment influences your symptoms. Personally, I took the drugs and things got better but I didn't take a diary of it as I was asked to. This meant that the doctors didn't have the evidence they needed to confirm the diagnosis. So, I soon realised that I needed to take a more active part in my own care. Without this information, I couldn't get a firm diagnosis. That meant that when I wanted a repeat prescription of the life-saving inhalers, I couldn't be given one.
Lesson: help the doctors to help you. Be an active participant in your care.
- Monitor your asthma after diagnosis
Yes, monitoring your symptoms is very important for diagnosis, but your asthma is likely to come in peaks and troughs. It can be affected by seasonal allergies, infections, changes in weather and a whole host of other factors. By monitoring your asthma and your use of inhalers, you can learn a lot about your condition and how to manage it. I have a peak flow metre at home, which my doctors gave to me (you can also buy it online for less than a tenner!). I take a daily measurement and store it in my Evergreen Life app - within the Personal Health Record on my phone. I now know that my asthma is affected by seasonal tree pollen and that I should increase my inhaler usage and take better care of my health in the month before the tree pollen in my area kicks in. This information is invaluable to me and prevents serious attacks.
Lesson: get to know your asthma. Monitor your peak flow and learn how your lifestyle affects you.
- Get the flu jab
As a person diagnosed with asthma, you're more susceptible to certain illnesses which can affect the lungs - flu being one of them. Because of this, you can have a flu jab every year to prop up your defences and prevent the side effects associated with people with asthma who get the flu.
Lesson: defend yourself. Take action to prevent illness.
- You're more susceptible to illnesses
This is the lesson that I've only just learned. It's actually the reason for writing this article now... As an asthmatic, you're more susceptible to things like chest infections. We all get coughs and cold and winter aches and pains. I thought nothing of it when I got a cold. One week went by and I was pretty floored by it, but you don't go to the doctors with a cold and a cough, do you? Week two was pretty rough and after week three of struggling to breathe, I gave in and went to the doctors. Turns out that when you have asthma, you can succumb to nasty chest infections more easily. An intensive round of steroids and a couple of days rest, and I started to feel much more human again. I honestly didn't know I was more likely to get this because of my asthma. If I'd have gone to my doctors when my symptoms got bad three weeks previous, I could've saved myself all that time in pain and fatigued.
Lesson: keep an eye on your health and get clinical advice, if needed.
Keep track of your health with Evergreen Life
Monitoring your asthma doesn’t have to be difficult. You can track your own peak flow measurements through our personal health record app, and connect to your GP record to make appointments and order repeat prescriptions.
The Evergreen Life app puts your health in your own hands. Take control today.