Friday, July 9, 2010

in which i learn i have asthma

I was supposed to stop needing my inhaler back in early to mid May.

The Albuterol inhaler has been part of my early spring every year for a dozen or more. Its purpose was to help me over the worst of the "acclimation" period of early allergy season. After 2 to 4 weeks I wouldn't need it anymore and I'd put it away for the year. This year, I've continued to need it. I'd been to the doctor's office a few times about it and finally they gave me an expanded breath test. This would measure my lung capacity and show whether or not there was something else besides allergies at work.

Turns out that I have something called Allergy Asthma.

(This is not to be confused with Exercise Induced Asthma, which usually occurs in more serious athletes who put their bodies through the wringer every day and end up not being able to breathe during hard efforts. I can still ride a bike, and even race -- sort of, and there seems to be a correlation between my allerigies and the asthma, so it's Allergy Asthma.)

Yes, I still have allergies to pollen, and yes, they are unusually bad for everyone this year. But I also have constriction of my bronchial tubes, meaning that my lungs aren't getting enough air, meaning that I have asthma too.

Doctors still don't know exactly why some people get asthma and get over it, while others get it and have it for always. It is unclear whether I will have asthma forever. But I have it for now, and that changes a few things.

I am now on two inhalers, a non-steroidal one to treat symptoms as they arise and another steroidal one actually reduce the bronchial obstruction. I am to return to the doctor's office in six weeks to see if this regimen has improved things. I am still allowed to race, and my doctor is preparing a formal letter to race officials explaining that my inhalers are not "performance enhancing" devices, but prescribed medications that simply allow me to breathe (and to participate in racing without, well, collapsing). I'm waiting to hear back from OBRA about it but I am hopeful that there will be no problem.

If anyone among my regular readers has ever dealt with asthma and physical activity, please feel free to chime in.

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