How to Raise Awareness About Asthma in Your Workplace

 

We are sharing a copy of a newsletter article written by AAFA community member Lynn Johnson. Lynn wrote this for her company's newsletter to raise awareness of asthma in her workplace. She manages non-allergic asthma that is mostly triggered by scents. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband and two sons. Lynn's personal story was also highlighted in our Asthma Capitals™ 2018 report.


Raising Asthma Awareness

by Lynn Johnson

I was very honored to have been chosen by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) to be one of their featured interviews to help kick off National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Please join me and thousands of others to raise awareness for asthma and help educate those around us who don’t live with the disease. The more we all understand it and are mindful of the people around us with this invisible disability, the better off we all will be.

Some of you may be directly affected by asthma, as I am. And you understand the difficulties often faced just trying to live like everyone else. I know all of you love challenges, so if you have healthy lungs, I have a challenge for you. Get a coffee stirring straw – not a drinking straw – but a coffee-stirrer, put it in your mouth and pinch off your nose to breathe only through the straw. Now get up and try to walk a few laps around the office, do daily activities or work breathing only through the straw. Welcome to our world. Imagine shopping, doing housework, exercising or trying to coach your child in a sport with only that much breath.

Do you know what triggers asthma attacks or flare-ups, or what contributes to asthma?

What about the triggers that you may never think about?

  • The lingering scent of the soap we shower with or the shampoo/hairspray we use
  • Scented garbage can liners many of us use in our clinics or homes
  • Laundry detergent/fabric softener
  • Air fresheners we plug in or spray
  • The spray we clean with
  • Flowers our husbands send us (or would like to send us)
  • Exposure to everyday colds/respiratory illnesses
  • Weather/temperature changes (We live in Alabama, right? If someone could find a way to control the weather, you would be a national hero to us!)
  • The stress of everyday life (We’ve gotten pretty good at stress management.)
     

And while for some, asthma issues are easily manageable, others spend weeks with breathing treatments around the clock and doses of oral steroids. And unfortunately, some of us frequently land in the hospital.

How Can You Help?

I ask that you stop and think about how the people you come in contact with every day (patients/co-workers/friends) might be affected by this disease.

While there is plenty we can’t control by ourselves, like air quality, pollution or allergies, please make a conscious effort to help us control what we can.

  • Could the products you use cause an asthma attack for someone around you?
  • Could someone land in the hospital because of your cold or respiratory illness?
  • Were you empathetic toward someone you might have seen struggling, using an inhaler or nebulizer?

Unfortunately, there are too many people with asthma who hide in restrooms to use their inhaler or nebulizer. Or worse yet, don’t use it at all for fear of ridicule from friends, co-workers and employers. I know… I use to be one of those asthmatics and it nearly cost me my life.

We don’t want sympathy or special treatment, just a chance to live like everyone else does. We are often afraid to ask for help or special accommodations because we don’t want the attention and we fear the repercussions. But we are just as capable as everyone else and most of us excel in our professions.

If you still wonder just how much this affects us all, take a minute and read the statistics below.

Asthma costs the U.S. an estimated $82 billion dollars per year in combined medical expenses and days missed from work or school. By comparison, cancer is estimated at $80.2 billion per year.

  • An estimated 24.6 million people in the U.S. have asthma
  • 40,000 people a day miss work or school because of asthma
  • 30,000 people a day have an asthma attack or flare-up
  • 5,000 people a day visit the emergency room because of asthma
  • 1,000 people a day are admitted to the hospital because of asthma
  • 10 people a day die because of asthma

Remember, asthma is an invisible disability, and most of the time, you will never know who it affects and who it doesn’t, until it’s too late to undo the effects.



Even though the official awareness month is coming to a close, you can raise awareness all year round. You can use Lynn's workplace newsletter as inspiration to raise awareness at your job, school, church or other places important to you. 



Do you have a story about managing asthma and allergies? We want to hear from you!

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I agree with everything already said by Gigi, PinkLadyCha, Cynthia and Shea!  Well done, Lynn!!

I admit that before I had asthma, I was totally unaware how scents and other triggers affected people with asthma.  

Thank you Lynn for your courage on speaking up and bringing attention to the importance of creating a safe workspace for those with asthma. Breathing is an important life function and we can all benefit by reducing scents and chemicals that have lung irritants in them and keeping good indoor air quality.

Many people are not educated sbout the toxins in many perfumes and scented products nor are they aware of the health effects using and wearing such products cause to so many individuals.

I hope more people stand together to unite in making positive changes in our environments so that the high statistics you have mentioned can be lowered!

Thank you!

Lynn, thank you for coming out of the closet and educating others on the struggles we face. You are a warrior and inspiration. My workplace environment has come a long way since I spoke out. It was hard to do at first but now everyone knows. People come up to me to warn me about the elevator or stairway or bathroom when there are perfumes used (policy violation). One thing you didn't mention is the fear we live with....fear of another bad attack or fear of being out with a flare and not being able to have a vacation or worse, losing your job and health insurance and meds. Lots of anxiety provoking issues we deal with when we just want to be healthy, work and live. 

 

Thanks again, yay Lynn!

gigi

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