Meet Joe Goofus: The Asthmatic You Don't Want To Be (But Probably Are)

by John Bottrell Health Professional

Joe Goofus means well, but he often neglects his asthma care plan and needlessly ends up in the emergency room for asthma.

It's not that he is a bad person, he just likes to have fun. He always plans on taking care of his asthma, but something fun always seems to get in the way.

Unlike Jake Gallant, here is what Joe Goofus might say:

Education: "Who needs education? Education is for old people. I have better things to do than spend time reading about asthma control. When I have trouble breathing, I'll take a few hits on my inhaler."

Good doctor: "What difference does it make who I have as a doctor? A doctor is a doctor is a doctor. And besides, doctors tend to over treat."

Compliance: (He only takes his medicines when he feels like it. When he is feeling better he usually quits taking them all together.)

Rescue inhaler: "This thing was made to be used when needed. When I'm having mild symptoms, I'll take a hit or two." (He doesn't use a spacer, and he doesn't bother waiting 5 minutes between puffs. Being short-of-breath is annoying and he just wants to get it over with. If he needs it again in four hours he uses it and he doesn't bother to call the doctor when his need for it increases.)

Peak Flow Meter: "What a complete waste of time My peak flow numbers are the same no matter if I'm having asthma symptoms or not, so why should I waste my time using that stupid thing?"

Asthma journal: "Only nerds waste their time with this. I have a good memory and I can keep track in my own head. Right?"

Early warning signs: (Okay, so he knows these quite well. Heck, he probably knows them better than the Gallant Asthmatic, because he has twice as many asthma attacks. He has the itchy throat, sniffles, headache, anxiety, irritability, increased respiratory rate, and everything else that goes with hanging out at his best friend's cabin after forgetting to take his Singulair the past three weeks. Oh, and by the way, he forgot his rescue inhaler at home, and he is currently at his friends cabin with no medicine. He is in a world of hurt.)

Late warning signs: (He's there right now. He has a tight chest, his respiratory rate is high, his shoulders are high, he's leaning on things to breath, he's extremely anxious, he's very irritable. Heck, he's panicked.) "Why did I forget my inhaler?"

Asthma triggers: (Well, it's pretty obvious now he's allergic to his friend's cabin where he is TRYING to sleep. Perhaps he's also allergic to his own forgetfulness and unreliability.) "Darn. Sniffle. Sniffle."

Well, he finds his Flovent inhaler and takes two puffs, hoping it will kick in. But it doesn't. He hears his friend snoring in the next room and wonders if he should wake him up. He takes in a half a breath. It hurt going in. His nose is runny. His respiratory rate is fast.

Finally he gives in. He wakes up his buddy and has him take him to the ER. This time one simple breathing treatment doesn't do the trick. He buys himself an IV, a large dose of IV corticosteroids, and then a hospital suite right next to an old man who drools and snores like a pig. Joe Goofus hits his nurse call button.

"Can I help you?" The nurse asks in a friendly tone.

"Yes, can you call RT to give me another treatment?"

"Why sure."

Two weeks later he gets to go home. Two weeks after that he's feeling better and gets out of the routine of taking his medicine. A month later his buddy invites him to a party at his cabin for more fun. The cycle continues.

The big problem with Joe Goofus, besides the fact that he is only hurting himself, is that by not treating his asthma right away he is setting himself up for permanent lung scarring. When that happens, he may end up with worse asthma. He is highly susceptible to becoming a bronchodilatoraholic or -- worse -- a bronchodilator abuser.

Any busy person is prone to being a Goofus, particularly kids who aren't monitored closely by their parents.

Don't be a Goofus. If you suspect that you are one, it is okay to admit it. Besides, you are not alone.

Just click here and read about how to be a good asthmatic. Go ahead. There's no better time to start than the present.

John Bottrell
Meet Our Writer
John Bottrell

John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).