Patient Blogs | Asthma
When COVID and Asthma Collide
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You can do all of the right things and still get COVID!

These days, it really seems like something that is making the rounds. Most of us know at least one person (or 12) who just tested positive. If you have asthma, it doesn’t make it less disconcerting. It’s a little less scary than 2020 or 2021, but not much!

During the pandemic, I was a bit neurotic. I was the one wiping down groceries and wearing plastic gloves in the grocery store. Early on, I drafted a nightly “check list” to complete to ensure our home stayed COVID free. While some of my family gathered for Christmas, I did not.

It was too much, but I knew I had to be diligent because it was communicated regularly: “If you have a pre-existing condition, like asthma, COVID could be very difficult for you.” COVID impacts your lungs, so if you’re asthmatic, you’re already at risk.

Then came more research, treatments, vaccines, heightened testing, lifted mask mandates, and some people slowly returning to work. Places that sold by all accounts super-unhealthy food had staff wiping things down like clockwork. I think we all let our guards down a bit.

I certainly did a bit.

I planned a trip to Paris to celebrate my birthday. I had an amazing time. I dined on croissants and baguettes. I sampled French perfume. I wore a beret. I smiled at the Eiffel tower. 

I also continued to wear my mask as much as possible. I washed my hands frequently. I tried my best to keep a little distance in a city jammed full of people. I had a wonderful time. And then, just like that: I got COVID!

I’ve tested several times (maybe 20 or more) – whether required before travel or because I felt a slight stuffy nose. Every time the test had that beautiful one line. Negative! Toss in the trash!

This time, those two lines appeared almost immediately. I was panicked. I have asthma, after all! The first few days were pure fear. I saw pretty quickly that I would have little bit of a rough go of it. I didn’t recognize my symptoms at first, and after testing negative at first, I was a little [re]laxed with my health protocols. I kept others around me safe by staying away (just in case), but I didn’t attack it with full effort until I knew for sure. I was scared. COVID impacts the lungs. Asthma involves the lungs. That is not a match made in heaven!

After the initial shock, some disappointment (it feels like failure when you get it), and again, epic fear, I moved to a place of acceptance.  I moved from fright to fight.

Like a lot of things in life, it became a matter of will. I got my mind right, and then I got to work.

Here’s what I did to get to the other side. Everyone is different, so check with your doctor on these.

  1. I told people that I tested positive – especially if we were around each other. This seemed to be common practice early on during the pandemic, but I don’t feel like it’s happening as much. It was important to me to let people know. Some people (like my parents) tested positive. Others around me did not. It was my duty to share. I couldn’t focus fully on my healing until I made sure those around me were updated.
  2. I checked my vitals – every few hours at first and then daily. Per doctor’s orders, I checked my temperature (making sure it was decreasing each day), my oxygen/O2 levels (making sure it was increasing each day), my pulse and blood pressure.
  3. I went to the doctor as soon as I learned I was positive. This may not be necessary for everyone, but because I have asthma (and I was several days into having symptoms), I wanted to know if my lungs sounded OK and if my symptoms were concerning to the doctor. I actually went a second time when my cough didn’t ease up to ensure I wasn’t showing any signs of pneumonia. She did a chest X-ray to make sure my lungs (with the exception of some normal inflammation) were good. They were, and that gave me peace of mind.
  4. I focused on my breathing. COVID or no COVID, if you’re congested and coughing frequently, it’s going to be hard to breathe. Add asthma in the mix and your lungs are just out of sorts. It was important to me to focus on deep breathing and to pay close attention to any changes to my breathing. One sign of pneumonia is wheezing (or a whistling sound) when breathing, so I was on the listen for that. Fortunately, my breathing never got that bad and I avoided pneumonia.  
  5. I did some yoga to help me with my breathing even more. I found a video on YouTube specifically for folks with COVID who wanted to help open up their chest a bit to breathe a little easier. It helped! It also helped my anxiety about having COVID. Three cheers for yoga!
  6. I used my rescue inhaler as needed. I found that I needed it a little more and my doctor encouraged me to use it when I did. I didn’t like having to up my puffs, but I also didn’t want to have a crisis.
  7. My appetite wasn’t great during the early days of COVID. But when I did eat (basically my husband begging me to try whatever he brought me on a tray), it was healthy – fruit, some sugar-free applesauce, some hot soup. I also took vitamins C, D, and zinc, which are recommended to keep your immune system strong anyway.
  8. I talked to friends and family to keep my spirits up. Being quarantined is not fun – especially when you’re an extrovert! When asked by one friend what I was doing to pass the time, I said, “Well, I finished Netflix!” It’s lonely to be in a room isolated and away from the world. A few hours can feel like an eternity! Having COVID can play mind tricks on you, so I had to talk to people to cheer me up when I had the energy. It was a vitamin of sorts.
  9. I took time off work to heal and recover. I got COVID after being out of the office for 2 weeks for my vacation. I did not plan on a third week! Fortunately, I work for an organization that allows flexibility and that supports a healthy work/life balance. My boss is great. She encouraged me to take the time I needed, and I’m glad I did. I strongly believe this contributed to my recovery.
  10. I prayed. There’s a lot written about the connection between faith/a spiritual life and health. In my lowest times, I prayed. I begged to be healed. Guess what? It worked. It worked.

 

 

Photo Credit: Grace Cary / Moment 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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