Breath-Taking: My Experience With Asthma

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KavonJones“Ahek-ahe ahek-ahek” Just one sign that I know my lungs are shutting down.

I was diagnosed with asthma as a baby. By the time I entered grade school, the emergency room became my second home. Since childhood, I’ve been to the emergency room over 50 times because of my uncontrollable asthma attacks.

Many everyday occurrences caused and still do cause my asthma to flare up, like cats, dogs, fresh grass, pollen, cold wind, smoke and strong perfume. I was restricted from going many places I enjoyed because of the high chanceof asthma triggers.

Recently, I got the opportunity to speak with Dr. Esteban Burchard, a physician and professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) who specializes in asthma health disparities among children and adolescents. He said that, “Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children,” and gave me some insight into the primary causes of asthma flare-ups.

The first tip is having a dust-free home because mites, microscopic bugs that live in dust, can be a huge trigger to an asthma flare-up. My home is really old and has a large amount of dust, which I breathe in on a daily basis. “For the majority of people, the less dust someone is exposed to, the better control they can have over their asthma,” Burchard said.

Secondly, he spoke about exercise-induced asthma. He said, “Excessive exercise can sometimes trigger asthma attacks or cause wheezing.” Sometimes, taking a puff from a quick-relief inhaler before exercise can help minimize the chance of an exercise-induced flare-up.

Thirdly, asthma flare-ups can be triggered by stress, including stress caused by living in an area with high crime, he said. Many youth in urban communities are born into the same uncontrollable circumstances I was born into, which include early exposure to drugs, gun violence and assaults. Seeing crime on a daily basis often made me stressed out, but I never thought it would trigger an asthma attack.

The distribution of money, power and resources, also known as the social determinants of health, are key things that can shape the future of a child’s health. Burchard said that the lack of access to resources,  may determine how effective asthma management can be.

Last spring, I signed up for the Covered California healthcare program, which is California’s new health insurance exchange, where low-income residents can find affordable health insurance. Now that I have health insurance, I can go to the doctor as an adult and get prescribed  more medication, which will help my asthma improve. This, combined with controlling all of the triggers of my asthma flare-ups, gives me hope that I can finally be in control of my asthma and stop letting it control me.

The percentage of  adults with asthma in Alameda County is higher than all of California and the United States
The percentage of adults with asthma in Alameda County is higher than all of California and the United States        (Community Commons, 2014)
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