When I was a kid growing up in Taipei, Taiwan, I was hospitalized for asthma a couple of times. When I got to high school, my asthma went away. But now at 42, my asthma seems to be making a slight comeback. Since my family pays $1,940 a month in health insurance, I thought it best to see a pulmonologist and check out my lungs.
I decided to visit Dr. Robert M Grant, Pulmonary Disease specialist in San Francisco CA at UCSF to check on my allergies and asthma. Here are some important things to know and ways to treat your asthma, allergies, and COPD. COPD stands for Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is often more severe than allergies and asthma.
I'm not a doctor, just a patient who suffers from asthma and allergies, not COPD. These are recommendations from Dr. Grant to me. It is up to you to see your own doctor to get your personalized recommendations. Nothing is 100% effective or safe.
How To Treat Asthma, Allergies, COPD
Here are some tips Dr. Grant recommended to me.
1) Come up with a plan of treatment. Allergies generally flair up during Feb – May and September – November. This is largely due to the pollination cycle of plants in your environment. Start stepping up treatment of your allergies and asthma at the beginning of these two seasons. Once the seasons are over, and as needed, you can step down your treatment.
2) If you have little ones at home, be proactive. Babies, toddlers, and grade schoolers tend to get sick more often. As a result, parents will likely get sick more often, or their immune system will go into overdrive to protect you from getting sick.
The common cold, or rhino-virus, helps trigger allergies and asthma. As a result, as soon as you start feeling sick or have a sick little one, it's time to step up your medical treatment.
3) Main forms of drug treatment. The main forms of drug treatment for allergies and asthma are:
Montelukast: An anti-inflammatory drug aka Singulair. It's a pill that's taken once a night as it may cause drowsiness. Montelukast is most effective for treating allergies. It is often prescribed with anti-histamines like Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allergra.
The side effects include sleepiness and more vivid dreams. Dr. Grant mentioned the side effects are minimal, and the drug can be taken daily as needed.
BREO ELLIPTA Inhaler: This is a steroid inhaler that covers the lungs. Its main purpose is to treat asthma and COPD, not so much allergies. It takes at least two or three days to take into effect, and two weeks to have the full effect. This is why it's good to be proactive.
The side effects may include feeling more high strung, not being able to sleep, and more.
Albuterol: Brand names include ProAir and Ventalin. This is a “rescue inhaler” that is to be used when you are suffering an asthma attack or general shortness of breath. You can take one or two puffs.
Pneumococcal Vaccine: This is a vaccine that is recommended for folks over the age of 65. It helps prevent bacteria from causing pneumonia. But for folks with lung disease, your doctor may ask you to get this vaccination to 1) help reduce your chances of getting pneumonia and 2) reducing the severity of your pneumonia once you get it.
Dr. Grant mentioned the pneumococcal vaccine is about 60% effective versus the polio vaccine, which is 99% effective.
I then asked why doesn't everybody get the vaccine given 60% effective is better than 0%. He said probably due to cost and most healthy people without lung disease can fight off pneumonia. Of course, there may be some risks to getting a vaccination. But the risks are low. See this article for more information.
You can get the pneumococcal vaccine at CVS or Walgreens or your primary care physician usually. But best to double check first.
4) Exercise, exercise, exercise. Exercise is great for your lung health and overall health. Aim to sweat every day and get your head rate up for at least 15 minutes a day.
5) Practicing pursed lips and box breathing. Practice pursed lipped breathing twice a day. Take a deep breath in, purse your lips, and exhale slowly and intently until all the air is gone. Box breathing is also a great practice to calm your nerves and “reset” your breathing. Spend 4 seconds inhaling, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and then hold for 4 seconds. Do this five times.
6) Find more ways to reduce stress. Stress makes you breathe shallower and weakens your immune system. Understand all the stress that's going on in your world, recognize the stress, make a plan, breathe deeply, and carry on.
7) Use a peak flow meter. A peak flow meter can be purchased at CVS or Walgrees for $10-15. When you are feeling normal, use the peak flow meter for three days a row and record your baseline results.
If you are starting to feel shortness of breath or trouble breathing, use the peak flow meter to measure your breath. If your score drops by more than 20%, take the BREO inhaler and Albuterol. If you feel bad, but the peak flow doesn't drop more than 20%, use allergy medicines like Montelukast and Zyretc.
The BREO inhaler and Albuterol are more for asthma and COPD, while montelukast is more for treating allergies.
See A Licensed Pulmonologist
These are my notes from Dr. Robert M Grant, a Pulmonary Disease Specialist in San Francisco, California. He graduated with honors from University Of California, San Francisco School Of Medicine in 1988 and has more than 31 years of diverse medical experiences.
You should make an appointment with your local pulmonologist to treat your allergies, asthma, and COPD. They are able to run a comprehensive breathing test as well.
Although allergies and asthma will likely stay with you for the rest of your life, they are easily treatable with modern day medicine, regular exercise, planning, and monitoring.
COPD is a more difficult lung disease to deal with, but the medicines and activities mentioned in this post are used to treat COPD as well. If you smoke, for goodness sake, stop smoking and go for a nice long walk. You should hopefully breath better over time.