In light of what’s been going on in Haiti, I was wondering what might happen if a natural disaster struck right here in Michigan, or if one struck near your home. What would you do? How would you breathe? Or, better yet, how should you prepare?
Hopefully you should never find out. However, a gallant asthmatic is always prepared for the worst. Therefore, the following 10 tips were created to help you prepare for such a worst case scenario, or any asthma emergency:
Have a bronchodilator rescue inhaler (like Albuterol) near you at all times. If you’re sleeping, have one next to the bed easy to grab. If you’re traveling, have one within your reach, or in your pocket (for traveling with asthma tips click here).
2. Store a rescue inhaler, or nebulizer with supplies and meds, at a secondary location, such as your parents’, in-laws’, girlfriends’ home. Another location you should have one stored is at your work, perhaps in a locker and in your car, perhaps the glove compartment. If you can’t get to your home, you can plan to go to one of these locations.
3. Have an Asthma Emergency Box at your home. This should also be easily accessible in case of an emergency. In it, you should keep a small supply of all your asthma meds. In my emergency box I keep one full Albuterol inhaler, one sample size Advair, half a bottle of Singulair, and a bottle of Claritin in case the allergies strike.
If you require controller meds to manage your asthma – like Advair, Symbicort, Singulair or theophylline, you should also store these meds at your emergency locations as well and your asthma emergency box too. You can get sample packs of most asthma meds from your doctor or pharmacist that work great for this purpose. You should store at least a weeks worth of pills.
5. If you have hardluck asthma, or if you’ve been in the emergency room for your asthma within the past year, you may want to talk with your doctor about having steroids or, if necessary, an epi pen. This way you’ll be able to treat your asthma if you don’t have access to your home or a hospital. These emergency meds should be stored at one of your emergency locations and in your asthma emergency box.
6. Make sure to replace the above medications at least once a year so they don’t become expired.
7. In your wallet, or purse, you should always keep a note that says you have asthma, and what medicines you take. You should also list any medicine or food allergies you might have.
8. Likewise, you should also have a note from your doctor (like this one from when I was a kid) that lets medical professionals know what works best for you in case you are unable to speak for yourself. You should keep a copy in your car, at work, in your asthma emergency box, and in your wallet or purse.
9. In case there is a lot of dust or other pollutants in the air following a disaster (such as what occurred during the 9-11 disaster in New York), you should have access to an air-tight mask.
10. If you are a parent or guardian, or teacher, it is your job to make the above preparations for your child. I define a child as anyone 18 and under.
So there you have it. By following the above steps you should be prepared for any asthma emergency, whether you are in the confines of your own home, or away from your home for an extended period of time.
A Registered Respiratory Therapist and asthmatic