By Toni Castro
Being young and feeling invincible can be hazardous to your health, or even deadly. There have been other asthma stories here on the Big Blue Thread, but I wanted to share my family’s crisis because it was a very close call that really made us think about our asthma plan. Hopefully, our story will help you or a loved one take heed and review your asthma plan, too. Remember the basics: review your asthma plan, refresh your medicines if needed, and remind yourself how serious asthma is.
Our daughter Shanice was diagnosed with asthma 18 years ago at the age of 3 and we’ve managed it pretty well without many incidents. Managing it consists of medication and close monitoring by an asthma/allergy specialist.
One evening last fall, we got a phone call from Shanice, who was away from home for the first time at college. She began by explaining that she had been hospitalized and was waiting for a ride back to her dorm room. My husband and I knew she’d been struggling with asthma symptoms brought on by a cold, so we were communicating with her regularly to check on her condition. Apparently, she had an asthma attack and still wasn’t feeling 100 percent but was ready to leave the emergency room. This was not her first attack but it was the first one away from home, so it was especially frightening to us because we felt helplessly far away.
Shanice’s breathing became increasingly harder as the day progressed and by evening, she was weak and lethargic. The medicine she typically uses when in the asthma danger zone was not effective. She was fortunate enough to have a good friend and dorm mate who insisted she go to the campus clinic. After seeing her blue lips, which indicated dangerously low oxygen levels, the clinic staff recommended that she be immediately transported to the hospital emergency room. At the hospital, Shanice was given oxygen, an IV (intravenous injection) for medicine, and a breathing treatment. After a few hours, she was finally stable enough to go back to her dorm.
Now that Shanice is on her own, we are hoping that she will remember to keep these critical things in mind, in addition to the Triple R’s:
- Be aware of your triggers, environmental or otherwise.
- Always take your medicines as directed, if prescribed.
- Have emergency phone numbers readily available.
Statistics (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology) show that in 2008, 48 percent of adults who were taught how to avoid triggers did not follow most of that advice. For young adults and parents of young adults with asthma, managing asthma is nothing new, but managing it without the guidance and monitoring by a parent or guardian may be. As your children become young adults, make the Triple R’s – review, refresh and remind – a mantra as part of their asthma plan. The mantra may someday save their life.
Learn more by visiting EPA’s Asthma Triggers website.
Toni Castro works in the Office of Public Affairs as a Visual Information Specialist. She has worked in Region 7 for just under 27 years and the last 8 in the Office of Public Affairs. She is married and has 3 daughters, 1 grandson and a 2 year old Yorkie. While an active family keeps her busy, she does enjoy reading, traveling, cooking and music.