I’ve never had an asthma attack before. Mostly I’ve had allergy attacks, where a specific allergen knocks me flat for a couple of days — I’ll get a runny nose, wheezing, hives, and body-aches. I think my last really good bout with allergies was the time I pruned the tree.
But I do have asthma. It’s mild, and because I was on a swim-team three decades ago my lung capacity is something like 120% of normal for my size. Asthma knocks that back to about 90% normal, so I almost never notice.
Yesterday in church I suddenly felt a cold draft. It got hard to sing. I started to feel weak.Within 20 minutes I was wheezing good and solid, but I didn’t have the runny nose or itches I associate with “somebody dumped pollen in the ducts.” I went home a little early, and discovered that I was kind of staggering around. I took a breathing treatment (albuterol in an industrial strength nebulizer, like they use in hospitals — we got it for the kids back when they were suffering from croup every winter) and the wheezing went away.
Of course then I had to deal with the albuterol side-effects. I was ravenously hungry and I had a case of the shakes that would have had me worried about my career as a cartoonist if I didn’t know it was temporary. I fell into bed and slept it off.
For most of the rest of the day I was dealing with lingering side-effects. I was almost as wiped out as I would be during a full-on allergy attack, but it only lasted a few hours rather than two days. We had friends over for dinner, and the evening was delightful.
When our friends had to leave I walked out to their car with them. The air temperature was 7 degrees farenheit. It felt nice — invigorating, and even a little refreshing. They started their car to warm it up, and then we all headed back inside to talk for another five minutes in the entryway. Two minutes in I was wheezing again.
Cause and effect seemed pretty clear. Apparently sometime during the last few weeks I’ve developed a sensitivity to “sudden change in air temperature” and it triggers an asthma attack. This time around I opted against the breathing treatment, and waited it out. My breathing improved after about half an hour.
It’s cold again today. And now I have an excuse to not go out in it. This does not make me happy, because I’m pretty sure the moment I start using this as an excuse to avoid cold weather I’ll end up with a psychosomatic asthma trigger. Of course, if that’s true then I ought to be able to walk outside and consciously DECIDE not to let it affect me. Hypochondria works both ways, right?