Patient Blogs | Asthma
Managing My Asthma-related Fatigue
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Asthma is not entirely like you see in the movies, with a nerdy kid on the bus with glasses, wheezing and hacking and pulling out their inhaler. Well, that may be a part of it, but it's not nearly the whole.

As an adult with asthma, I have learned that the condition can affect almost every area of your body. That impact also includes fatigue. Asthma is not a one-and-done event. It’s a chronic condition, so it’s around – either better or worse – each day.

I recall visiting my doctor one day for a standard asthma checkup. I was actually in that day because I had decided on my own to stop taking my daily asthma medication. My doctor gave me an earful about how dangerous that can be. She was right. Since stopping the medication, I had found an increase in all of my asthma-related symptoms. After sharing routine updates, I casually mentioned that I had been tired a lot.

Her response was surprising to me. “Yes, asthma can lead to fatigue,” she said. I was incredibly shocked. By then, I knew that having an asthma flare or an asthma attack could lead to just not feeling so great. However, I didn't understand until then that asthma could also affect how much energy you have on a daily basis.

My doctor explained it this way:

First, uncontrolled asthma – which I had because I had taken myself off my medication (bad idea) – can mess with your respiratory system and your sleep, which can make you tired during the day. With severe asthma, you could cough a lot at night, which of course could have you up and not getting the shut-eye you need. Or, if you’re coughing a lot (day or night) due to your asthma, it can make you feel tired and weak. All of these asthma symptoms can also reduce your blood oxygen levels and contribute to you feeling tired. When she explained it that way, it made perfect sense and described most of my symptoms. Anything that strains your breathing and disrupts your sleep is going to make you tired.

Between a busy home and work life, I didn’t need anything else that would make me tired during the week, so I decided to do what I could to make some changes. Here are a few things that have helped me.

  • Keep my asthma controlled. This is easier said than done, but it starts with having honest conversations with a trusted medical professional and following their advice. I’ve found it very unproductive to hop on and off my medicine. When I take my inhaler as prescribed and allow my doctor to tell me when to reduce my dosage, I feel much better. I’m beginning to understand the signs of my asthma being uncontrolled, and I promptly make changes or pay a visit to my doctor.
  • Get serious about sleep. Most of us know you need good sleep to feel good. I’ve become more focused on a nighttime routine that helps me fall asleep and stay asleep. I’ve used everything from bubble baths and soft music to medication prescribed by my doctor to sleep. I know my stay-up-all-night triggers, so I’ve had to shut down social media and turn the TV off as well.
  • Make exercise a priority. I never understood why one would exercise when they are tired. Now I know! Exercise gives me the energy that the best latte cannot do. It may be tough to actually pull myself up to work out, but I’m always glad when I do. One of my biggest fatigue busters is a good workout. I’ve even felt a lot better after getting in a few quick 30-minute workouts in a week or a few neighborhood walks with a friend. A bonus? Exercise also helps me with sleep.
  • Calm my mind. Some of my asthma-related fatigue seems to be strongly connected to stress. I don’t care what anyone says, it can be stressful to have asthma. From the fear of an asthma attack to not being able to easily do some of the activities you enjoy, asthma is no walk in the park. However, a walk in the park is exactly what I need sometimes. When you’re emotionally exhausted, your body can feel the same. I’m becoming as focused on mental health these days as I am on physical health.

Lots of things can make you tired – staying up binge-watching movies, pulling an all-nighter with work or school, and asthma. A few changes can bring the energy back you need for a brand-new day.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Westend61 via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 2005

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with asthma in 2005. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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