May, 2022

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Asthma Awareness Month

Asthma makes breathing difficult for tens of thousands of Manitobans, most of them children. There’s no cure, but it can be managed—however COVID has added an extra layer of risk to those living with this disease. 


What is asthma?

Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs. During a flare-up the muscles around your airways contract and the airway lining swells. This can partially or completely block the airways, making breathing difficult and causing shortness of breath. 

People who have asthma have it all the time, but only have flare-ups when something bothers their lungs. Common triggers include pollen, animal dander, cold air and even exercise. 

Asthma affects about 11% of people in Canada. Some young people with asthma grow out of it, while adults can develop asthma from lung infections, air pollution or other exposures.


Hailey's Story

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One of my earliest memories is of sitting in Children’s Emergency with a mask pumping medicine into my lungs.

I’ve had asthma my whole life, and frequently spent childhood nights at the hospital while doctors tried to bring my breathing under control.

There are many types of asthma medication and not all work for everyone. I nearly died a couple of times when I was given medication with dairy products in it, causing a severe allergic reaction.

Around the time I started school we found a medication regime that worked, but for the next five years I spent every night wearing a mask that sprayed a fine mist of drugs. We called it my “medicine machine” – the only thing that made my symptoms manageable.

Living through this pandemic has been a sobering experience. I knew that people with asthma were more likely to be hospitalized from COVID, and my level of anxiety has been extremely high. I got vaccinated as soon as I could, and I’ve been extremely cautious about what I did and who I saw.

Then one night I noticed I couldn't smell the peppermint tea that I had made, and within an hour I had a migraine and my throat was raw. I took a rapid test and confirmed the worst.

By day four I could barely breathe and was using my puffer every few hours. I couldn't leave my bed, and was trying to care for three children stuck at home – an incredibly emotional and challenging experience. 

My breathing slowly improved after a week, but the fatigue and aftereffects lasted over a month. I consider myself lucky to have gotten through this. Having a preexisting lung condition adds an extra layer of anxiety to what we’ve all been experiencing with the threat of COVID, and the possibility of very severe complications.

One in five Manitobans suffers from lung disease, and you can’t tell someone’s medical history just by looking at them. Most people who see me would never know how much asthma has affected my life. We need to be cautious, and respect each other in public. We’re all working to get through this, and keeping everyone in our community safe still needs to be a priority.


Living With Asthma

Most asthma can be controlled by avoiding triggers and using medication properly, however recent guidelines show up to 90% of people with asthma need to use medication to relieve their flare-ups more than twice a week—meaning they don’t meet the medical guideline for “good control” of their symptoms. 

If asthma is a concern for you or a loved one, The Lung Association can help. Check out some of our key asthma support and education resources:

Asthma symptoms and treatment
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How to properly use various inhalers

Free download: My Asthma Action Plan

Have more questions? Speak to a certified Respiratory Educator at 1-866-717-2673.

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