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Elizabeth Holloway
02-20-2010, 05:10 PM
Hi,
In my newest WIP, my MC suffers from an asthma attack and uses an inhaler. Since I am not asthmatic, I have never experienced these feelings. I don't want to misrepresent the experience in my story. So, if anyone has asthma and would like to share what an asthma attack feels like, what the inhaler does and how it feels in the dire situation and how you feel as you recover from the attack, I would be so very grateful!

I will use your experiences to form my own version for my book. I will not copy what you say here word for word.

Thanks!
Beth Light

AKA Me
02-20-2010, 05:33 PM
For me it typically starts out as a nagging cough. The tightness in my chest makes me feel like I want to cough up mucous but there isn't any mucous to cough up. It starts out with tightness, then the wheezing begins, first very slight and then increasing to where other people can hear it whenever I take a breath. My chest feels very tight and heavy, it takes a lot of effort to push the air in and out which makes me very tired. The longer I let it progress, the more difficult it is to get it under control with the inhaler. You breathe in as you pump the inhaler to inhale the medicine through your mouth, then you hold it in your lungs (hold your breath) for about a minute before exhaling. You wait another minute before taking a second puff so that the first dose can open up your airways a bit and the second dose can get in farther. The medicine makes me feel tingly in my fingers and toes and a bit lightheaded for several minutes. It does help my breathing very quickly, within five minutes, but it doesn't instantly make the asthma go away. I have asthma that is brought on mainly by allergens, so the only way to completely stop an attack is to get away from whatever brought it on -- a cat, ashes from a wood-burning fire, cigarette smoke, etc. I feel very tired for a while and it can take hours for my breathing to completely return to normal. I'm lucky that my asthma is not so severe that I've ever been hospitalized.

Elizabeth Holloway
02-20-2010, 05:40 PM
Thanks for your reply, AKAme.

How fast can an attack strike? I have my MC opening a drawer with dust and old paper in it and that's what spurs the attack, but it hits her pretty quickly. Can I PM you the excerpt and see if I'm presenting it accurately?

AKA Me
02-20-2010, 06:11 PM
I think it would depend on how bad the MCs asthma is. For me just opening that drawer wouldn't immediately bring on a severe attack but I would probably start sneezing, my nose would start to feel clogged, I might start to cough a bit. Someone with a worse case of asthma though might react differently, I can't say. For me, I can withstand being in a very dusty room/house for maybe an hour before it gets so bad I have to leave.

Yes, you can PM me if you have more questions.

Paul
02-20-2010, 06:25 PM
Thanks for your reply, AKAme.

How fast can an attack strike? I have my MC opening a drawer with dust and old paper in it and that's what spurs the attack, but it hits her pretty quickly. Can I PM you the excerpt and see if I'm presenting it accurately?

Possible if the MC is already stressed/ tense or if there has been a build up of trigger factors that day(prev allergens). There are diff levels of asthma. but the central experience is not being able to breath. (similar to drowning sensation)

stitchingirl
02-20-2010, 06:26 PM
I hate asthma. It literally feels like something is sitting on your chest, squeezing the life out of you.

Mine tend to last longer, because I freak out and start to cry..well, the best I can in the midst of an attack.

Sometimes it starts out as coughing, and other times it starts with feeling short of breath. Sort of like trying to get a breath when your face is in front of a fan that's on HIGH. It depends on the severity of the asthma and what type. By that, I mean is it exercise-induced asthma or bronchial asthma (that's the really bad type...not that asthma isn't bad). Some can have an asthma attack brought on by smells, such as perfume or certain chemicals. Me, on the otherhand, I'm still trying to figure out my triggers. I can be around certain chemicals one day and nothing happens, and then the next time, it makes me short of breath.
I'm so out of shape (well..I'm round and that's a shape..so I guess I'm good ;)), that just bringing the laundry basket down to the basement can cause me to be short of breath.

And I have a serious complaint here. With all that they can do with medicines, you're telling me that they can't make the medicines taste a little less like Death?

icerose
02-20-2010, 06:47 PM
The best I can describe mine is it feels like someone took a wool blanket and wrapped it around my lungs. At first it's an irritated heavy feeling, and then it's like they're squeezing that blanket. It can be painful to breathe. It feels very heavy and very constrictive and again it's like trying to breath with wool stuffed down your lungs. It isn't quite like water, but it's close. It can be very scary. The wheezing is very audible and with a really bad one it's all you can do to keep up off the floor. Dust doesn't really trigger my asthma but a waft of strong perfume will do me in, or cigarrette smoke. How bad the attack is depends on how big of a whiff I got and whether or not I was able to get out of it.

The inhalers I used growing up would induce stabbing pains in my chest. They'd also hurt my throat, make my hands really shaky, and light headed. The problem with inhalers back a few short years ago is there was no regulation on the dosage. So some inhalers you'd get a whopping dose and others you'd barely get anything and you might as well chuck it across the room. The whopping dose was just as horrible as the asthma attack as it'd leave me shaking and jittery. They were forced to fix that not too long ago.

I prefer advair, it's a powder you don't taste and it does wonders to help keep the lungs clear and prevent asthma attacks as well as stop them. For a while there it was rather dangerous stuff, would puncture your lungs if you coughed too hard because it weakened the lining. They were forced to fix that or risk being yanked off the market.

I've gotten to the point now where I can head off early asthma attacks by breathing like a singer. As in lifting the back of the throat and breathing deep. It feels like I'm wripping that wool blanket off as it's tightening. If I let an asthma attack progress, like I don't stop what I'm doing or don't get away from the offensive smell fast enough, then I have to use medicine. Carrying things and hurrying can trigger it.

A small suggestion, maybe have her carrying some heavy boxes and have the asthma attack already coming on, she can feel the tightness, she's trying to slow down when she opens the drawer and the dust comes up after her. That would definitely kick it into high gear for me.

Hope it helps.

Elizabeth Holloway
02-20-2010, 08:05 PM
Thank you guys so much! I think I have what I need to make it work. I'm still a little concerned about how fast it needs to happen, but I think I can solve that. My MC is very stressed at the time of the attack, so I have that going for me ;). Right before she goes into the room with the dusty, old drawer she talks for a while with an older woman. Maybe I can have her attack start there with the woman's strong perfume and have it exacerbated by the dust in the drawer.

Thanks again! Yet another reason AW rocks!

Linda Adams
02-20-2010, 09:59 PM
Mine's a bit different than the other ones that were described. My primary symptom is coughing (not a symptom for everyone who has asthma) and was undiagnosed for a long time.

If you get a bad cough, that's my mild, normal cough. My triggers are pollen, sudden temperature changes, dust, and cold. Windy conditions are also very bad for me.

At my worst: If you've read Powers That Be, that's a pretty good description of my coughing. I spent about two years sick all fall, winter, and spring when my allergies kicked into full time. I coughed so hard that I was throwing up, and once I thought I broke a rib--felt it pop (you can break ribs coughing; one of my uncles did it). I remember sitting at an awards ceremony, and I was coughing so much that I was having a hard time getting my breath. Afterward, I'm always exhausted and a little shaky. During that period, I was also tired all the time because I couldn't sleep (the coughing gets worse at night), and the coughing was exhausting. I felt like there was a cloud over me--imagine having a cold for eight months out of the year. I'm guessing that the doctors missed it because they kept thinking it was a cold--I even had one who thought I was making a big deal over nothing. Eventually, I tried an allergy doctor, and all they needed to do was listen to me cough in the waiting room to know what it was.

Allergy shots were what made a big difference. They got me desensitized enough that I wasn't reacting to everything.

A book you might want to look at is Asthma for Dummies.

Cassiopeia
02-20-2010, 10:04 PM
Thank you guys so much! I think I have what I need to make it work. I'm still a little concerned about how fast it needs to happen, but I think I can solve that. My MC is very stressed at the time of the attack, so I have that going for me ;). Right before she goes into the room with the dusty, old drawer she talks for a while with an older woman. Maybe I can have her attack start there with the woman's strong perfume and have it exacerbated by the dust in the drawer.

Thanks again! Yet another reason AW rocks!When the onset of an attack is sudden, it can feel like it's instantaneously, but it's usually a minute or two and some event leading up to it. Stress is a big trigger and especially if a panic attack has begun.

Dust would have to be a specific kind of dust I would think or your MC would be coughing first.

An extreme allergic reaction could bring it on as well. But again, it would take a moment or two.

stitchingirl
02-21-2010, 12:24 AM
If I can get myself to calm down, relax and breathe, then sometimes it takes longer for the asthma attack to happen.
But if I feel the pressure first and it keeps building then I get freaked out and it comes on quicker. Within a couple of minutes.

Keyan
02-21-2010, 12:52 AM
I have mild allergic asthma, triggered mainly by cat dander. I carry an albuterol inhaler all the time. For me, an attack just feels like my breathing becomes difficult - as though I'm not pulling in enough air even if I take a deep breath. After using the inhaler, it returns to normal within minutes... so much so that I can't quite remember what it felt like to not be able to breathe.

I usually have a few minutes delay in response - about 10-20 minutes - to the trigger.

Sometimes I have other allergic symptoms as well - itchy eyes, stuffed nose.

I don't usually get the cough others have described.