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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Thoughts from a respiratory therapist

(Shutterstock image)

I was at a family party over the holidays and was talking with a family member who is a respiratory therapist. 

Since I work in Public Health, I see things very differently from those who work in the medical field. I wanted to know what the respiratory therapist saw in the hospital every day.

Here are his biggest frustrations/thoughts:

  • Don’t buy cigarettes, buy Advair or Dulera instead (they are controller inhalers). If you stay on your controller, you may not need to go to the ER. (Controller inhalers work to control the swelling in the lungs that happen when you have asthma. If you can keep the swelling down in your lungs, you will breathe much easier.)
  •  Don’t run out of your inhaler! Gotta do those refills! (I am guilty of running out of my controller inhaler - twice! I love that my inhaler has a counter on the back....but you actually have to LOOK at the counter. Oops!)
  •  Don’t smoke (Easier said than done, right? I have 2 family members who have smoked for decades and have tried to quit. It's been a struggle for them, but there are lots of resources out there, including one to help with your Quit Day.)
  • Don’t go to ER and smoke pack of cigarettes afterwards and have to come right back (he can give you a breathing treatment to open up your lungs, but they can tighten right back up after smoking.)

  • Take your inhaler correctly (He says he tries to correct people on their inhaler technique, and they get defensive.)

  • If you like spending money and only getting half the medicine, don’t listen when I try to correct your technique. (He's not trying to make you mad, he just wants you to get all of the medicine that you should be getting!)

  • People who say, "You’re wrong, I’ve been taking it this way for years." He has to tell them, "Well, it’s still wrong, no matter how many years you’ve been taking it that way." ( I hear that all the time - I know what I'm doing! I've had asthma all my life! One study looked at various  research studies and found that between 50% - 100% of people do not use their inhalers correctly. )

  • Don’t get defensive, I’m here to help you get the most out of your medicine. (Notice a theme going on here?)
  • When people say, “no one has ever told me that before!(As a parent of 3 kids with asthma, who were hospitalized 12 times when they were young, I'm sure I missed a lot of what respiratory therapist, doctors, and nurses were trying to tell me at 3am while I was sleep deprived and struggling with a migraine at my kid's hospital bedside. So I understand how people can miss what is said. You really can learn something new every day!)

He finished with, "It's frustrating because I know people are going to do what they want to do, and go right back smoking, not using their controller inhaler, and not using correct technique."

Think YOU are using your inhaler the right way? Here's a video that shows correct inhaler technique

So remember, the respiratory therapist is your friend! He's not trying to make you mad by correcting your inhaler technique, he's not trying to annoy you by asking when you're going to quit smoking, etc. He WANTS you to be healthy, be able to breathe well - and NOT have to come back to the Emergency Room.  

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