Today’s struggle with asthma is worse than usual. Strong smells trigger my asthma — cigarette smoke, perfume, cologne, air fresheners, candles, etc. All of those things are so widespread in life that it’s really hard to avoid it all. You can’t just tell someone to go and take a shower before they are around you. Even explaining to people that I like them but they’re triggering my asthma doesn’t always end well. The worst is when you are stuck somewhere near something very triggering for your asthma. For example, at the Taylor Swift concert, our assigned seats were near this woman who had VERY strong perfume. I abused my inhaler and got through the concert, but it sucked.
Sometimes the asthma attack comes on very suddenly but other times, I lose my sense of smell, my chest gets tight, and I have the worst headache. My sensitivity to cigarette smoke is so high that I can’t really have friends that smoke. Just the second hand smoke on their clothing causes me to have an asthma attack. We do paired programming at work, and I can’t work with other developers that smoke because it triggers my asthma. It’s always so awkward to tell someone that you can’t work with them because of their habit. People don’t really understand that or just plain think that I’m being snobby/rude/bitchy.
Cockroaches also trigger my asthma. You can trace back good and bad years of my lungs by where I was living at the time. I grew up in a place that had cockroaches, and I was sick all the time. When I lived in Seattle, my asthma was awful, but I went on a week-long vacation to St. Louis, and my lungs were magically better that week. It’s bizarre how my life changed when I was clear headed and energetic all the time instead of being in this asthma-induced haze all the time. When we look for new places to live, we try to pick places that were newly built or renovated because they’re less likely to have cockroaches. We also try to avoid places where you have to walk past smokers to get inside.
Using my inhaler helps, but I get super shaky and my heart races. When I have to abuse my inhaler when I’m around unavoidable triggers, I feel brain dead and overly exhausted. After a week, I’m generally unfocused and feeling like I’m living in this weird pseudo-world. The worst is when you start to think that weird awful world is your new reality. It’s literally refreshing when you get have a couple of hours of breaths of fresh air.
The asthma attacks always hit me at unexpected times, too. One time, I agreed to babysit at someone’s house without realizing that every single room had a different scented candle. After I put the kid to bed, I moved all the candles from one room to another with the intention of putting the candles back in the right place when the parents came home. They came home early and I unsuccessfully tried to move the candles back to the right place without them noticing.
Another time, I was in an all-day long meeting at work and I happened to be sitting by a smoker on my team. When he came back from smoking, I had a violent asthma attack, and ended up sitting on the floor of the restroom for an hour just trying to get back to normal.
Today, I’m hiding in my room because Mark has friends over and something in the main room is triggering my asthma. I can’t smell anything anymore and my hands are crazy shaking still from my inhaler. I wish I had a better, sustainable solution. When Mark comes home smelling like smoke from being around others that smoke, he has to immediately throw all the clothes in the wash and take a shower. I don’t really have that many (if any) friends that smoke because I have this unintentional bias against them. I avoid casinos like the plague.
I want to try to have this rule that you can’t wear perfume/cologne or you can’t smoke before coming over. The midwest in me thinks it’s so rude though. Other people think that it’s just won’t be followed at all. I’m at a bit of a loss, so any advice is appreciated!