May is Asthma Awareness month. According to the CDC website, there are about 30 million people in the US, including children, suffering from asthma. Growing up, I was one of those kids.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease that limits the ability to breathe normally. It has no cure, and while some children who have it during childhood may not suffer from it as adults, others have to cope and manage it throughout their lives.
To learn more, watch the following video from the American Lung Association.
What does asthma feel like?
In a word, it feels awful. When an asthma attack strikes, it feels like you are drowning. It’s like trying to breathe in through a straw while the other end is blocked. You feel incredibly desperate as you try to make sense of what is happening to you, and you panic over when it will be over.
Asthma, aside from being physically debilitating, can feel embarrassing and inconvenient.
You can’t hide an asthma attack. I can remember many times in gym class when we had to run laps; I was always one of the kids trailing slowly behind the others. Not wanting to cause an attack, I would walk for some time until it felt humiliating, and then run, only to have to stop and catch my breath over and over.
Asthma is different for each child. Many things can trigger an attack.
For some children, it’s exercise-induced. For others, it’s walking through the smoking section of a restaurant. Even simple things like climbing stairs or laughing hysterically can set off a coughing fit, induce wheezing, and lead to an attack.
It’s hard to look cool or feel normal when you’re wheezing or gasping for air. Like any differences, kids with asthma can be made fun of, second guessed, or ostracized. Some films and television shows depict the asthmatic child as nerdy or an outcast. I’ve dealt with some of the stigmas and misconceptions myself. Even though I no longer suffer from asthma, the little girl in me who wanted to run track but couldn’t can still remember the teasing and stares because of the inhaler I had to carry around and use.
Here are five things that the child with asthma wants you to know.
I’m really scared…
I know it’s chronic and I should be used to it, but I’m terrified. I don’t know if this will be over soon or not. On a good day, I might be able to sit down and catch my breath (these days are rare). On a normal day, I have to use my inhaler. When a bad day comes, nothing seems to help, and I have to go to the Emergency Room.
I can’t talk when I’m having an attack…
I know I should say something when you ask: Are you Ok? Do you need something? Are you sure you are having an attack? But my lungs and vocal cords won’t let me speak. And I feel so bad about that, because it looks like I’m not listening to you. But I am.
I am not weak…
I know I have a breathing problem, but this doesn’t make me a weak person. Please don’t assume that I can’t do lots of other things. Maybe sports are a challenge, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try to play at all.
I am not faking it…
I know I’m a kid, and we like to play jokes. But I won’t joke about this. I don’t like to cough. It’s not fun to not be able to breathe. Who would make this up?
I am not lazy or out of shape…
I know it looks different, but I work extra hard to prove this. Sometimes, I can get overconfident and run too much, but then it costs me. But I don’t want to look unfit. I want to do what everybody else is doing. Kids with asthma are not lazy. Many of us are in otherwise good physical shape. We just have to pace ourselves.
Want to learn more about Asthma? Check out the resources below.
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.