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Finances, Fumes, and Frost: 3 Ways Asthma Affects My Life

Woman looking over her finances, checking how much her asthma treatment has cost her this month
Getty Images / AlexSava

Cróna Tansey is one of the thousands living with asthma in Ireland. Today, she shares three surprising ways the condition impacts her life.

Over the years, I've had to make many changes to keep my asthma under control. From carefully choosing activities to making "asthma-safe" purchases, these compromises protect my health.

And I'm still learning. Figuring out what triggers my asthma hasn't been a straightforward journey. Trust me, some things can still take me by surprise. 

Still, I don’t regret being so careful. All the changes and adjustments I've made have improved the quality of my life. I've also gathered many tips and tricks when finding and developing my "new normal." So, today, I’ll share how much asthma has impacted my daily life... in three unexpected ways. 

1. Expenses: Who knew asthma would cost so much? 

Wow, have I felt the pinch from my asthma expenses. It's not an exaggeration to say that asthma greatly impacts my monthly income.

First, the doctor's visits, consultant fees, and prescriptions all add up. There's no cure for asthma, either, so I'll have to keep up with these appointments and payments for the rest of my life.

I know I'm not alone in feeling the financial strain of asthma. A survey carried out by the Asthma Society of Ireland (ASI) revealed that the average respondent spends between €100 and €144 monthly (approx. £84-£121 or $112-$161). 

This is quite a bite out of my paycheck. Asthma is also a very broad-ranging condition, so many could be spending more or less than this. The total you pay often depends on the severity of your condition.

I don't pay a monthly flat fee for consultations and medication. Some months with asthma can be more expensive than others - especially when I'm hit with a chest infection. I've had several chest infections over the last few months, which became quite costly. Thank goodness my fiancé doesn't have asthma or many health expenses. But they do have significantly more disposable income as a result.

Meanwhile, 40% of respondents take less medication than prescribed to cut costs. I found this result very worrying. Taking medicine as instructed is a must for controlling asthma and avoiding flare-ups.

I went through a period when I wasn't on top of my asthma symptoms. I wasn't controlling my condition as well as I should have been - it was a huge burden. Of course, I paid the price. I had many unforeseen costs from all the doctor and hospital visits. My mental health suffered, too, from all the stress and upset it caused me. 

So, I sympathize if you ignore asthma symptoms due to the cost of treatment. I wish I didn't have to fork out all the extra costs! But if I stopped managing my asthma, I couldn't live life to the full. Health is true wealth, and I'm lucky to live somewhere with the necessary resources and professionals.

Take any medicines as prescribed; you need them. Or you may incur even more fees - or debts – further down the line.

2. Cosmetics: Everyday items can trigger an attack

A few years ago, I wouldn't have thought my cosmetic choices would impact my asthma. But when my asthma was out of control, I desperately tried to track all my triggers.

There was a big one I'd been missing - aerosol sprays. When diffused nearby, the strong fumes and lingering chemicals were very hard on my chest. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why I could tolerate aerosols before and not anymore.  

A doctor's visit told me the answer - my asthma was out of control. I needed to find an alternative so I could eliminate this trigger. Without keeping anything back, this upset me somewhat. Many of the cosmetic products I used came in a spray can, from deodorant to hairspray. How could I replace these? But holding my breath or running to another room after spraying wasn't working.

Asthmatics are likely more sensitive to chemicals and strong fragrances. Roll-on deodorant and hair powder - not spray - helped harness unwanted asthma attacks. I've even filled my cleaning cupboards with non-spray alternatives. They work just as well. 

But outside my own home is a different matter. I can't control when other people blast their spray cans. In some places, however, a few predictive steps can help. When I go to the hairdresser, I always pack a mask - even before the COVID-19 days. In the winter, scarves are an excellent barrier against deodorant or perfume sprays.

After a few outings, precautions like these become pure habits. Simple changes and preparedness make asthma easier to manage long-term.

3. The weather: My asthma needs can change with the season 

Winter can be the worst season for people with asthma. My mom's asthma only flares in the earlier or later months of the year. 

My story, though, is a little different. I get asthma symptoms all year round, so seasonal changes mean adapting how I manage my symptoms. Winter is definitely a tough time for me. Cold temperatures and bitter winds can be harsh on my chest and make breathing difficult. I can't avoid going outside often, but masks or scarves are practical barriers.

I'm a primary school teacher, too, so autumn means returning to the classroom. If you have children or remember your school days, I'm sure you know how prevalent coughs, colds, and flu are. 

I’ve never been much good at fighting off colds, and catching one (or flu) can lead to chest infections. In turn, chest infections make it much harder to manage asthma flare-ups. During this time of year, I take extra care to keep my hands, desks, and nearby objects sanitized. It can be a chore, but an anti-bacterial wipe or liquid can keep the germs at bay.

Then along comes spring, and I spend three months being attacked by pollen. Thankfully, the internet can help when it comes to tracking pollen count. Again, masks - or a thin scarf - help provide an effective barrier. I also avoid carrying pollen in from the outdoors by drying my clothes and bed linen inside. 

Finally, summer brings my chance to travel for the year. I love visiting new places - but cigarette smoke, air pollution, and fumes are unavoidable. I won't leave my asthma medication behind on the move, even when popping around the corner. I'm always vigilant about carrying my asthma medication, and summer requires even more precautions.  

The takeaway 

Asthma could bring my life to a standstill if I allowed it. Making compromises can be challenging - and it's no picnic being consistent with these changes.

Many friends of mine don't have asthma. While I would never want anyone to be in my shoes, I can envy those unaffected by cold air, fumes, and aerosol sprays. It can often be quite isolating. My friends can relax on a day out, but I need to watch out for surprise triggers.

Still, not being cautious could be so much worse. There is no better satisfaction than realizing you're in control of your asthma. I have all the power, not my condition. And I'm choosing to have a good life - the mindful way. 

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for asthma management. Please consult with a professional who can apply best practices and appropriate resources to your situation.

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen. 


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