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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ooh! Aaahh! Fireworks!

(Shutterstock image)

It's that time of year again....Independence Day is coming up! 

And the 4th of July means all of my neighbors will be lighting fireworks. The entire block will be full of smoke.....which is a major problem when you have asthma.

I love fireworks as much as the next person, but if I didn't have to deal with all of the smoke, it would be so much more fun!

The city displays are always fun, because the smoke is higher up in the sky. For neighborhood fireworks, the smoke is down on the ground because everyone is lighting off the cheap fireworks.

Did you know that fireworks can cause problems with asthma? I can tell you personal stories, but I also found a study from Spain about fireworks and breathing problems. 

"The different colours and effects produced in these displays are achieved by adding metals to the gunpowder. When a pyrotechnic display takes place it releases a lot of smoke, liberating minute metallic particles (of a few microns in size, or even less), which are small enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs."

"This poses a risk to health, and the effects are probably more acute in people with a background of asthma or cardiovascular problems," Moreno explains. "The effects in healthy people are still unknown, but common sense tells us it cannot be good to inhale the high levels of metallic particles in this smoke, even if this only happens a few times a year."

Fireworks make me really nervous because we had a bad experience about 15 years ago with Son #2. Son #2 had been outside playing with friends, and when I went outside to call him in for dinner, I noticed that there was a lot of smoke in the valley. I knew that there was a fire miles away on the mountain, but we lived a LONG way away from the fire. So, I was shocked to see that much smoke on the valley floor.

I ushered Son #2 inside, and he was coughing so I gave him a breathing treatment with the nebulizer. He seemed to fine during dinner.

Later, he went out with his dad to light some fireworks, and watch the neighbor's fireworks too.

When he came back inside, he was really struggling to breathe again. Since it had been longer than 4 hours, I gave him another breathing treatment.   

But he "didn't look right". I told Hubby that I was going to take Son #2 to the Emergency Department. Once there, the nurse took him right back to a room and started oxygen. The Emergency Department Doctor was really worried about Son #2, and they were trying to help him. (We found out later that Son #2 goes from bad to worse VERY FAST.) He's in that 10% of people with asthma that have severe asthma.  

With severe asthma, medicine and treatments that work on other people don't work on them. 

Son #2 was getting worse and worse, so they admitted him to the pediatric wing of the hospital.

In fact, we didn't realize how bad he was or that they had the "crash cart" parked right outside his room (the nurses were afraid he was going to stop breathing and die.) They didn't explain this until AFTER they felt he was out of danger several days later. I learned that they had put a heart monitor on him to alert them if he stopped breathing and his heart stopped. (I swear these scary situations are what has led to my grey hair.....)

So, after 3 days in the hospital, Son #2 was able to come home. But, every year since then, I have worried about fireworks and asthma. In fact, Son #2 is older now, and his asthma is much better. But I usually watch the neighborhood fireworks from inside the house. If not, I end up with an asthma attack and have to run and grab my Albuterol inhaler. 

So, enjoy celebrating Independence Day and the freedom we have living in America. And enjoy the fireworks! I'll be watching the neighborhood fireworks from my air conditioned living room while sipping on an ice cold lemonade. Now that's how I watch fireworks!


  1. It isn't so bad here in humid houston. We have had burn bans in years past due to drought. As a poor college student I didn't buy my own but watched neighbors.

    Unrelated, but a family member wants to quit smoking. Since you are a health educator, can you point me to resources? I live in the spring/houston area in Texas.

    1. Hey, I found this through your state health department

      And this

      Good luck!!

  2. I have a question for someone living with asthma are you on inhalers ? If so can you every day without have a tough time breathing or even though you are on an inhaler will you have times here and there throughout the day a bit of a hard time breathing ?

    1. Hi Liv!

      Yes, I use a daily, controller inhaler every morning and every night to keep the swelling down in my lungs.

      I also have a rescue inhaler for times when I have an asthma attack.

      I usually feel fine, except if I get around smoke, perfume, cold weather, or get sick. Those things will always trigger an asthma attack for me.

      The National Guidelines for treating asthma can help you know if your asthma is "in control."

      There's a simple way to know using the "Rules of 2's"

      You are NOT in control if you:
      1) use your rescue inhaler more than twice a week

      2) wake up more than twice a month (coughing, wheezing, or having a tight chest)

      3) are refilling your rescue inhaler more than twice a year

      If you need your rescue inhaler that often, that means you ALSO need a daily, controller medicine. There are a LOT of options, so call your doc to find out which one is best for you and which one your insurance will cover.

      He/she needs to know you are having problems throughout the day breathing.

      If you just use a rescue inhaler all the time, you aren't getting to the bottom of why you are having a hard time breathing throughout the day. Usually, it means you have swelling in your lungs, and a daily controller medicine will help you feel better so you don't have to rely on your rescue inhaler as often.

      Also, your doctor may need to see WHY you are having a tough time. Is it allergies? Do you need to make any changes in your house to make it more allergy and asthma friendly?

      Do you need a daily controller medicine? Are any other medicines you are taking making your asthma medicine not work as well?

      I would absolutely call your doc! You should be able to get your asthma under control and not be having a hard time breathing every day :(