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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Colds, asthma and the straw exercise

Well, I jinxed myself. Remember last week's post how I talked about not getting a bad cold yet this year? 

Yeah, well as careful as I was - I finally caught a cold. The photo shows my medicine pile for work. (By the way - I am NOT endorsing any of these things....nor do I get any money from any of the companies. I just wanted to show what I have to haul around between work and home when I get a cold.) These are a few of the things that seems to help sooth my throat, help my congestion and cough.

Daughter Kitty was sick, so I knew it was just a matter of time until I caught her cold. Even being as careful as I could be with hand washing, etc. it caught up with me.

It took a day or two, but it's now affecting my asthma. Hubby is sick too, but since he doesn't have asthma, he doesn't get as sick as I do.

In fact, he seemed surprised when I told him my chest was tight and I was having a hard time breathing.

People who don't have asthma have a VERY different experience when it comes to fighting colds. They get the scratchy throat, sneezing, runny nose and cough. 

But when you have asthma, it also affects your lungs so you have a hard time breathing. As I sit at my desk and type this, I am short of breath. It feels like I just walked up a long flight of stairs - and I am just sitting and typing! 

I used my nebulizer before work for a breathing treatment, but it's wearing off. So I'll use my rescue inhaler from my purse while I'm at work.

When we teaches classes about asthma, we do a little "this is what it feels like to have asthma" exercise.  (If anyone in the class has asthma, we do NOT have them participate!) We pass out coffee straws to each person. Then we have them jog in place for 30 seconds. Then we have them plug their nose and breathe ONLY through the straw.

I watch their faces as they desperately try to suck through the straw. 
Then we ask them: "How do you feel? Can you get all the air you need? Are you starting to panic a little because you can't breathe?" 

Then we have them pull out the straw.

People often say that not only can't they get enough air, but they are scared because they can't breathe. 

Welcome to my world! 
When you can't breathe, it is scary, and you can panic. Then that makes it harder to breathe. It's a vicious cycle. 

Then I tell them, "This is what it feels like to have asthma. Except, we can't take our straw out and breathe normally."

I see many people finally have that "Aha!" moment.

UNC_Chapel Hill has instructions of how to do this if you want to try it with a school group, scouts, etc.

Be careful if you use this activity so people don't chew on straws, poke their neighbor, etc. And you might want to pass around a trash can immediately after and collect the straws. Especially if it's a group of kids (or adults!) who might keep chewing on the straw. 

Well, its time to get back to my tissues, throat lozenges, rescue inhaler, hand sanitizer and self imposed exile in my office. (I don't want to get anyone else sick.)

Hopefully this doesn't last long and morph into pneumonia


  1. I was at a restaraunt with my mom last night and we sat in the bar area to avoid screaming kids. I started coughing alot and it was more difficult to breathe. Then I smelled smoke, we didn't realise smoking was permitted at the bar so we moved. My grandad smoked and lived to be 83 and I've never smoked and have terrible lungs. Weird how that sometimes works out

    1. Yep, life really isn't fair sometimes...