Proper Treatment

Knowing intellectually that people can die of asthma is a bit scary.  Reading that a friend of a friend died of an asthma attack is another.

Death from asthma is a relatively uncommon event, and most asthma deaths are preventable. It is very rare for a person who is receiving proper treatment to die of asthma.

However, even when it is not life threatening, asthma can be debilitating and frightening. Asthma that is not properly controlled can interfere with school and work, as well as daily activities.
— From “Asthma in Adults” at the University of Maryland Medical Center

Of course, proper treatment is often dependent on affordable medical care.   I carry with me an albuterol inhaler and antihistamines to deal with allergic asthma.  Not everyone can afford them.

Also: some don’t believe they have asthma.  For decades I didn’t believe I had asthma, despite having allergies, because I was fat — I was supposed to breathe hard, right?  Shortness of breath means “obese”, right?  Wrong.   (Misdiagnosis occurs, too.) But getting properly diagnosed means medical practitioners need to look at the symptoms and not the body weight — and having affordable practitioners and treatments available in the first place.

I live in a country with treatments available, and they’re affordable for me because I have a computer science degree.  Other people aren’t so lucky.



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11 responses to “Proper Treatment”

  1. Brigid Keely Avatar

    I didn’t realize I had asthma for a LONG time because I have cough-variant asthma and also well obviously I’m just out of shape! Because all fat people are out of shape! right? OBVIOUSLY.

    To control it, I need allergy medication, a maintenance inhaler (which runs $100 a pop and which I can’t afford) and an emergency inhaler (which runs $100 a pop and which I can’t afford). I’m uninsured and I have no idea what I’m going to do when my emergency inhaler runs out. Frankly, I’m really not used to breathing easily. Like, ever. But, you know, the USA _totally_ doesn’t need any kind of socialized health care.

  2. TheLima Avatar

    This couldn’t have been posted at a more appropriate time. I’ve long had what I thought was shortness of breath caused by fat/out-of-shape. Turns out, I might actually have sarcoidosis. I see a lung specialist next week to review my abnormal CT Scan & do a pulmonary function test.

    Both side of my family have had asthma — my grandmother (mom’s mom) died from it. My father had severe asthma all his life. She was plump; my dad was omgdeathfat.

    I’m my dad’s spitting image in girl shape. No surprising I should develop something with my lungs.

  3. Emerald Avatar

    No personal experience of this, thankfully. But my husband and his two siblings all have asthma, to some degree, and they’re all thin. It was worse when they were kids, and they’ve mostly grown out of it – hubby only gets wheezy under dusty conditions, like when we moved house and were shifting furniture. Nevertheless, the NHS gives him an inhaler for emergencies.

    Back in the 90s I helped out with a youth theater company, and the number of inhalers we had to keep at the side of the stage in case one of the kids had an attack was alarming. There were way more kids with asthma then than in the 70s when I was at school myself – and they were kids of all shapes and sizes. I hear from friends with kids that it’s even more common now. Pollution? Vaccinations? Those are a couple of theories – personally I have no idea, but I don’t believe fat has anything to do with it (even if they could prove that kids are getting fatter, and from what I see around, I don’t think they are).

  4. Sasquatch Avatar

    “But, you know, the USA _totally_ doesn’t need any kind of socialized health care”

    God no. Who care’s if you can’t breathe, you don’t want to end up like us miserable, socialists in Denmark!

  5. Heather Avatar

    I had a classmate die of an asthma attack the summer before my sophmore year of high school. I couldn’t believe it and I had no idea how dangerous asthma was… he had an attack and apparently couldn’t find his inhaler (or maybe left it at home). He went into a coma and died three days later.

    not nearly as life threatening but speaking of just figuring fat = breathing hard, I have hypothyroidism which sometimes makes you feel “oxygen deprived” and like you can’t breath (i also have panic attacks which contribute to that feeling sometimes) and I always figured it was because I was out of shape (even when I wasn’t). I never even thought to see a doctor to find out if something was wrong (and couldn’t afford to anyway). and yet all of those fatphobes who espouse “fatties die sooner!” don’t even consider access to health care, treatment, or diagnosis of illnesses.

  6. Julia Avatar

    Don’t forget that even those of us diagnosed at a very early age and who luckily live in a country with healthcare (and drug coverage! go Quebec!) it’s still considered a ‘not really real for grownups’ disease. I mean, no-one would ever make fun of someone slowly drowning, but when an asthmatic asphyxiates, it’s all in hilarious fun a la ‘whoops, we pressured the asthmatic to play with us and now she’s dying hee hee hee’ variety. Apparently, even for gym teachers, asthma is something attention-seeking kids like I was need to ‘walk off’.

  7. geekgirlsrule Avatar

    I have severe asthma, and I’m thankful that I have insurance, because with it the privilege of breathing costs me $65/month. Without insurance it would be $175 a month. That’s just the maintenance inhaler. The rescue inhaler, which the maintenance inhaler makes thankfully redundant and I don’t use that often runs me about $20 with insurance.

    Yeah, I’m desperately unhappy in my current job, but can’t really just leave and “find something else” unless that something else has excellent prescription coverage.

    1. Living 400lbs Avatar

      Bartell’s sells my 1-month maintenance Advair inhaler for $250 without insurance. Depending on the insurer it has ranged from $30-$50 a month, and there’s no generic yet. Singulair copay can be $20-$30 since it’s also not available in generic yet. My rescue inhaler is relatively cheap, and antihistamines are OTC.

      But yes, we paid COBRA while unemployed.

  8. Bookeater Avatar

    Thank you for posting about fatties and asthma. The last several times I’ve had colds, the cough lasted for weeks afterward. My doctor has asked me several times whether I wheezed at night and if I had asthma. I always said “no” because I didn’t hear any wheezing (nevermind the cough and irritated airways). Once, he ordered a chest x-ray (I live in Korea where TB is a concern). The radiologist said that my stomach fat reduced my lung capacity. I felt so ashamed! Couldn’t even ask him why, if fat caused coughing, why it only happened during and after an infection. Now I’m thinking about getting checked for asthma.

  9. Five Hundred Pound peep Avatar

    I almost have died of asthma at least a few times, including throwing the heart into arythemia and needing adrenaline shots to stay alive. My lungs went FIRST before I got severely fat, all the doses of prednisone, trust me are not friends to people’s weight either. I was on Flovent during my severe weight gain, and having researched that drug, normal thin people can gain 50lbs on it, so someone with endocrine problems like myself, certainly was not being helped. Had no health insurance so the ER was my “treatment” all through my 20s and I needed far more. Today it’s COPD with asthma, and lungs still keep me housebound in very hot or cold weather, but at least I am not in chronic bronchitis status like I’ve been many times. I take several drugs for asthma, abulerol, Advair, Singulair. Singulair for me was a life saving drug., I also have to avoid triggers, and learning I was allergic to potatoes, also kept me alive. All the best to you in struggling with asthma. It is a scary illness.

  10. […] necessarily “just being fat.” Waiting til you’re thin? A, may not help, and B, you could die in the […]

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