A Wizard Wheeze

My name is Matthew Petty, and I am an asthmatic.

Phew, that took some some saying (mainly cos I have no oxygen in my bloodstream). I’ve had it since I was a child, but never very badly. I’ve never gone blue or fallen over or anything. No hospitals or ambulances have been called. Just the wheezing and lethargy.

If you’ve ever wondered what asthma feels like, here’s how to try it. It’s fun! Get yourself a drinking straw. Now, breathe through it. You’ll notice you have to suck hard to get enough air up it, and you’ll also notice you have to blow hard to get the breath out again. The latter is the worst part for most people. This is because normally, you breathe in, your lungs expand, and your diaphragm (pron. DIE – er – fraggum) stretches to accomodate them. Then you release the breath, and the elastic diaphragm moves back, pushing the air out of your lungs – it’s not normally an effort.

But when you have asthma symptoms, your tubes (a technical term) are congested. Not by mucus, but by the tube walls being inflamed. This reduces the size of the hole to about that of a drinking straw. You have to make twice the effort to get the air in, and you also have to force it out again, unlike before. That’s what really chafes.

When I was first diagnosed, I was getting symptoms during school games lessons, which I never enjoyed because I would get very uncomfortable and wheezy. Before they would prescribe medication, the doctor suggested I chew gum while playing or running. This would discourage me from breathing through my mouth, and promote nostril use. It did help a little, but not enough to stop me getting wheezy. Unfortunately, I neglected to tell the sports teacher I had been told to chew gum in class by my doctor. You can imagine the difficulty I had explaining why I was chomping on the Orbit while hurdling. Then again, explaining anything to sports teachers is hard, bless ’em.

Back to the doctor. They put me on two types of inhaler, Ventolin, which I’ve been on ever since, and Intal, which as far as I can remember, was piss-useless.

I was tried on all sorts of combinations of Ventolin, steroids, etc, until finally in the early 1990’s I was prescribed a combination of Serevent and Becotide 100. I still have Ventolin around the place, but only for emergencies. Since then, I have lived a full and exciting life.

One thing that does annoy me is that the powder spray can style inhalers that I use are very wasteful of materials. Each consists of a plastic casing with a small metal spray can inside. As far as I know there are no ways of obtaining just the can, so you could re-use a plastic case. In addition, the plastic cases have a removable cover on the mouthpiece, but not one over the other end. This means that pocket fluff, grit, insects, grime, filth, dirt, mud, blood, sweat, gravy and egg can all get in the top. Next time you take a puff, you inhale it all, and spend the next few minutes rolling on the floor coughing your lungs up.

I did once get a Ventolin inhaler with a lid at both ends. Actually it wasn’t Ventolin, it was generic salbutamol, which is probably cheaper, but GSK probably sued the maker out of existence. After the spray can was empty, I washed the plastic case, then replaced the can with a new one. Sadly this case got lost. So what I want now is a case or pouch which will stop dust getting in my inhaler.

Googling “inhaler cover” gave me PuffaPouch (WARNING – FUCKING ATROCIOUS FLASH NIGHTMARE OF A ‘MYSTERY MEAT‘ NAVIGATION HELLHOLE BASTARD – CHRIST, WHY DO THESE SO-CALLED “DESIGN PROFESSIONALS” INSIST ON MAKING A SITE UNUSABLE WITH THIS SHIT?). This site seems to sell a neoprene pouch that covers the mouth end, but not the other end. This makes it pretty pointless to me. Maybe some gaffer tape will do the trick…

A word about terminology. I’ve never liked the use of the phrases “out of breath” or “short of breath” because they imply you’re simply tired after leaping up some stairs. I get “out of breath” when I dash for the train, and it’s nothing like asthma. That’s just 30 years of not enjoying sport.