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Asthma – The basics

Managing your asthma

So, I mentioned in my last blog that I have brittle/severe asthma. This post is about asthma in general and how I manage it with life/uni etc. I’ll also try and throw in some hints/tips or things that I use to make things a little bit easier. Cause managing severe asthma can be a right pain in the arse.

So, we will start with some basic facts. 5.4million people in the UK have asthma, that equates to about 1 in 12 people. Every 10 seconds, someone in the UK is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. That’s a lot of people.

Asthma is a respiratory condition that mainly affects your bronchioles, the small airways in your lungs. When you inhale something that may irritate your lungs, the airways go into a spasm and close making it hard for the air to go through the lungs. This can cause the feeling of tight chestedness, shortness of breath and wheezing. Although everyone is different and experience their own symptoms, so there are other symptoms that you can experience.

So how do you deal with this condition? An important thing to remember is you’re not alone and there is a lot of other people with this condition, so there’s lots of resources out there for newly diagnosed people. Asthma UK are the main charity in the UK for people with asthma and have lots of stuff on their website to help.

One thing all asthmatics should have is a personal action plan. Asthma UK have one on their website which is one that you can fill out with your GP/Asthma nurse. If you have severe asthma, this action plan is not very well suited to you, and many severe asthmatics don’t have a proper action plan as a result of their not being able to find one that suits. I’ve made my own one, and this is an example of it below. I’ve left out values etc incase someone does want to download it. It’s not overly complicated and is quite basic, but for me, basic is better.

So, for milder asthmatics who don’t need to factor in nebulisers etc, Asthma UK’s action plan is available to download from here.

So, Apps for managing asthma. There are 2 apps that I use for managing my asthma. I use AsthmaMD and Medisafe. I’ll start with AsthmaMD.

So, Asthma MD is an American app so it’s a bit strange to navigate. What is very useful though is that it has a good peak flow based action plan. It will ask you your height and weight and work out your predicted best peak flow and fashion an action plan (AP) from that. However, my predicted peak flow is a lot lower than my personal best, which is what I work off.  I’ve attached screenshots of what it looks like when working off your height and weight at the bottom. One of the best features I find is that it tracks your peak flow onto a chart and shows you what zones you’re in, the dates and times you hit them and then plots the line for you. You can then show this graph to your health professional if you so wish. I’ve recently got a new phone, so I haven’t gotten around to setting it up on my new phone, so the graph I’m going to put in isn’t filled in yet! I know it says I’ve not done a peak flow since 2015, that’s not entirely true! I haven’t used the right account on here in ages, so the one I’ve signed into is my old account. I’m not that bad at managing my asthma, honest!

As you can see above, I’ve loaded a screenshot of what the peak flow graph looks like, and then the predicted peak flows and signs/symptoms I may be experiencing.

Part of the app is that you can input what medications you are taking as both reliever and preventer medications. You can put what you need to do in time with the different zones you may be in on your AP. Unfortunately, as this is an American app, some of the medications are in the brand name that the Americans use, but they do have the generic names beside for most of the medications and there is the option to add your own if needs be.

Positives and Negatives of Asthma MD.

Positives

  • It is very colourful and user friendly.
  • The peak flow tracker is very good and easy to read.
  • You can put your own peak flow data into and not have to use the predicted.
  • You can add your action plan into it so you will know what to do for each peak flow reading
  • You can add your medication into it
  • It can remind you to take your medications
  • It’s free.

Negatives

  • It is American, so the medication names are all the American brands
  • It’s not useable on iPads unless you don’t mind it only being iPhone size on your iPad screen

So, AsthmaMD has a lot of positives and for me, few negatives. It’s good for tracking my asthma and I’m going to try and get better at actually checking my peak flows!

Another app I find very handy to manage my medication is an app called Medisafe. You can input all your medication into it and it will remind you when you need to take them. You can also put in when you need extra reliever medication. It’s been a game changer for me because I’m hopeless at remembering to take my meds during the day or if I’m out, forgetting to take them when I get home. But you can set your home and work into it and it can remind you take them when you reach home or work. Very handy!

  This app does have the ability to have more than one account, but you do have to pay for it. The basic version will allow you to do most of the features I list, but in order to make use of the “premium features” you need to pay £3.99 a month. This gives you:

  • Unlimited family members
  • The ability to monitor more than 20 health measurements such as temperature, blood pressure, heart rate etc.
  • You can change the colours of the app.
  • Different alarm voices

I used it without paying for a long time and found it did the job I needed it to. I just got bored of looking at the same colours so I pay the extra £3.99 a month.

Positives and Negatives of Medisafe

Positives

  • Can input all your medications, there is no limits
  • Can set different times for taking your medication
  • Will give you the option to use the brand name (eg – Salbutamol is known as Ventolin, Paracetamol is known as Panadol etc…)
  • You can snooze the alarm if you’re not near your meds so it will remind you in either 10,20,30mins etc.
  • Will recognise when you get home and remind you to take your medications then.
  • Easy to set up and use

Negatives

  • Can be very time-consuming inputting all the medications
  • The app is American, so the brand names are all American ones, but you have the ability to put your own medications brand name in if you so wish.
  • You do have to pay for the extra features.

Neither of the apps I’ve listed above cost anything to download, and I’ve found they’re game changers in my adherence and compliance.

One thing that is very important in management of ANY chronic illness, not just asthma, is medication compliance. I get my medication in blister trays as I’m on so many tablets. But it’s hard to keep focused 100% of the time on taking every medication you’re prescribed at the time you’re meant to take it. I’m guilty as sin for this and do miss doses of medications a few times a week. I’ve gotten A LOT better during lockdown

So that wraps up my blog on asthma! Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question! I’m curious as to how many people actually read this and don’t just click on it for sh!ts and giggles!

Until next time!

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About me Health Life

My physical health in a nutshell

My Physical health in a nutshell

So part of the reason I’m actually writing a blog is to have somewhere I can let off steam. A lot of the time that steam has built up is as a result of something connected to my physical health problems. I think having the chronic health problems that I do helps me to learn how to deal with a lot of situations in life. Unlike my dog, who if she doesn’t like it, pisses on it and walks away.

So, what physical conditions do I live with that gives me the right to write this blog? Primarily I have brittle asthma. This means that I have a very severe form of asthma that has me hospitalised regularly. I’ve averaged an admission a month since I was 19 and I’m 28 now. So that’s a lot of time spent in hospital as a result of my lungs. It has a big impact on my life, especially when I was in school sitting my Leaving Certificate (Irish A-Levels) and in my 2nd year of uni. At some point I’ll do a separate blog all about my asthma and how I live with it etc, but that’s somewhere a bit further down the line yet! But my asthma is probably the biggest problem I face on a daily basis with my physical health. My exercise tolerance is awful, although it’s not much better not being able to get out and go for a walk or go to the gym at the minute! Thank you Covid-19! But hopefully once this is all over, I’ll be able to get back to doing some kind of exercise! But my main symptoms of my asthma are shortness of breath, tight chest and wheeziness. But not necessarily all at the same time. I’ve been in hospital before and not been wheezy, but have what’s known as a silent chest, which means there’s very little air going in and out of my lungs. This is bad and means I really should be in hospital if I’m not already. But we’ll go into that in more detail later.

I also have a condition called Adrenal Insufficiency (AI). It’svery similar to a condition called Addisons Disease. My AI is actually really well controlled, so long as I remember to take my steroids in the middle of the day (I’m a bit of a nightmare for remembering to take my medication in the middle of the day). I have been on steroids pretty much constantly since I was 19 for my asthma. Until I was about 23 I was on very high doses regularly which confused my body so much that it stopped making it’s own steroids and got lazy. Because I was giving it what it needed artificially, it decided that it would cease making it’s own cortisol. So since I was  23, I’ve been on what’s known as cortisol replacement therapy. So I take the same amount my body would produce in the form of tablets three times a day. I’m god awful at remembering to take them, so more than once I’ve gone into adrenal crisis and needed injected with steroids. Like my asthma, I’m planning on doing a blog dedicated to my AI, as it’s quite a complex condition and I don’t want to waffle on about it on here if it’s not something that interests you!

As I said above, I’ve been on steroids for a long time, and a lot of the health issues I’ve got stem from the amount of steroids I was taking. I developed a condition called Avascular Necrosis of the femoral heads. This basically means that the blood supply to my hips stopped flowing as good as it should and the heads of my thigh bones where they go into the hip socket died and crumbled and I needed to have both my hips replaced at a young age. I was 22 when I had the right one done and 23 when the left one was done. It was tough going, but you wouldn’t even notice it now. I’m sitting typing this with my legs crossed under me!

Steroids have also caused me to gain a lot of weight. I’ve gone from being a size 16 to a size 22 in about 10 years. Partly steroids but also partly down to my own poor diet when I wasn’t living at home. But I’ve ended up with things like problems with my eyes and diabetes because of them. They’ve definitely not helped my mental health and I notice when I’m on high doses of steroids, my mental health goes to pot. Which is why we try to avoid steroids like the plague. My consultant would sooner have me admitted on IV medication for my chest than have me back on steroids. Nasty things! There’s a joke among the asthmatics online that the steroids we take for our asthma are known as the devil’s tic tacs!

But, I will hopefully blog again soon! Will definitely go into a bit more detail about my asthma and AI. Thanks for reading!

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About me Family Health University

The first post.

So, I’m trying to get my head around WordPress, so apologies if this totally looks rubbish, I’m getting there!

So, my first post is going to be a little bit about me in more depth than what’s on my “About me” page.

My name is Vicky, and I’m 28 years old. I live in Manchester on my own, but my partner, who at the minute lives in Southampton, is planning on moving to Manchester in the next few months. At the minute, the whole country is in lockdown and we aren’t meant to leave our houses because of coronavirus/COVID-19. So Chris has come up to stay with me so I don’t go any more insane than I already am!

I spent a few years at uni studying Biomedical Science, but due to a lot of different things, my health mainly, I had to give that chosen course up. I’m planning on going back to the same university in September to study Psychology and counselling. I’m looking forward to it, I need a new challenge. I’m bored silly just sat at home!

So, my health. I’ve got a few physical and mental health problems that have had a big amount to say in the shaping of my life over the past 10 years. I’ll probably do a separate blog talking about them, but in a nutshell, I’ve got a few mental health problems and a few physical health problems. I’ll go into more detail in another blog. But it’s important to know that my health problems don’t define me. I just happen to have them on top of being Vicky, the techy, geeky four-eyed psychology student!

But for now, I’ll leave it at that and will let you decide what you make of my blog!