I think my mother was more worried about my going to college two years ago than I was. I have had asthma since I was very young.
It was worse when I was younger. I used to have to use an inhaler before I ran the mile in PE class. And one time I had a big role in a play, and I developed pneumonia. My asthma got really bad. I remember using my nebulizer -- a machine that creates a medicated inhalable mist -- backstage before I went on. And I hid cough drops on the backs of set pieces to help me get through.
As winter weather rolls in, so do colds and flu. But for those with asthma, it can be an especially stressful time of year because even a simple cold virus can trigger a major asthma event.
"In asthma, the lungs are already irritable and more reactive. So any virus that impacts the lungs has a propensity for creating more problems, including bringing on an asthma event faster and easier than many people realize," says Jonathan Field, MD, director of the Allergy and Asthma Clinic at NYU Medical Center/Bellevue...
Now I'm 20. I'm a third-year student at the University of Virginia, majoring in drama. I've gotten good at keeping my asthma under control. It mostly only acts up when I'm sick, especially when I have a cold or a cough.
The biggest thing I've had to learn is to carry an inhaler with me wherever I go. That can be hard to remember. My solution is to have a bunch of inhalers and leave them in my bags. That way, no matter which bag I pick up -- my backpack, my purse, whatever -- I know I have an inhaler. Every time I go back to my home in Northern Virginia, I get my prescription refilled from my family doctor. I also have my own nebulizer, which I keep in my dorm room and use occasionally.
Asthma at College: "Take It Seriously"
My advice for teenagers with asthma who are at college is to take it seriously. Keep an inhaler with you all the time. That includes when you go out at night. You might think you don't have to pay attention because your parents aren't around, but you have to pay attention more because they're not there to remind you. If you start drinking and dancing and having fun, you might not notice your asthma is acting up. And there are lots of cigarettes at college parties, which can trigger some peoples' asthma, too.
Also, try your best to keep your allergies under control because that keeps your system calmer, making it less likely to erupt into asthma. Know what you're allergic to. Take preventive steps, whether it's wrapping your bedding in allergy-protective covering or avoiding dust and mold. For me it has meant doing daily nasal irrigation and starting up immunotherapy shots again. I think I've learned to take a little better care of myself than other people my age do.