Air, Our Breath

“It takes my breath away!”

Most of the time, when we hear that, it’s an exclamation of beauty. There’s a sense of wonder watching leaves turn ruby and gold and carnelian, of smelling good clean earth. All seasons have their scents. The ocean fills up the summer, with salt and water. Autumns leaves and their loamy, musty scent. Winter is sharp cold and hot cocoa. Spring flowers open to sweet, delicate fragrances.

It does take your breath away to enjoy the seasons.

It is also, sometimes, a cry for help.

Let’s face it: no one lives without air. Not babies coming out of the womb. Not the oldest men or women on Earth. Most of us die within minutes if we’re without air. Some, like the two Brazilians in 2010, and Blaine and Severinsen in 2012, managed to hold their breaths more than 15 minutes each. However, each one had to breathe when they came up again. Without that first breath after being under water, their feat would have ended in tragedy. No one lives without air.

For asthmatics (and those with other lung diseases), breathing can be a hardship unlike any other. Cold, crisp days feel like icicles growing in their lungs. Smoke from wood stoves or rubber fields choke like a forest fire. Running for the pure pleasure of it? It’s possible, although it must be constantly monitored or else it can be deadly. The feeling of drowning is frightening. There are almost as many triggers for an asthma attack, both allergy-related and non-allergy-related as there are people who have the disease.

The statistics are there.

The statistics for this incurable (but mostly manageable with proper treatment) lung disease are staggering. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, every day in America:

  • 44,000 people have an asthma attack
  • Nearly 25 million Americans suffer from asthma (over 8% of adults, over 9% of children), and 60% of asthma cases are “allergic-asthma.” The prevalence of asthma has been increasing since the early 1980s across all age, sex and racial groups.
  • Nearly half (44%) of all asthma hospitalizations are for children.
  • Each day 9 Americans die from asthma. There are more than 3,300 deaths due to asthma each year, many of which are avoidable with proper treatment and care. In addition, asthma is indicated as “contributing factor” for nearly 7,000 other deaths each year.

These are just a few of the facts about asthma. For more information, go to their website (http://aafa.org) and take a look around.

The EPA

I bring up this because we need to care about our air. We – as individuals, a people and a country – need to learn how to start cleaning our air better. A lot has been done already. According to the EPA (home, A-Z index), emissions quality of 6 principal air pollutants has decreased since 1980. Check out their website for more information.

However, we need to do more.

The AAFA states that asthma has increased 80% since 1980. Together, the figures from the AAFA and the EPA mean we aren’t yet doing enough.

Today’s takeaway

Take the time to:

  • Appreciate that you can breathe freely,
  • Find out what you can do to improve the ambient air pollution in your community, and then,
  • Begin a grass-roots campaign for improvement or volunteer at a local level.

Let me help you.

If you want help, whether through newsletters, grant proposal writing, or brochures for the public meeting you’re holding, contact me. I’ll help you in your commitment!

Yours in Breathing Healthy Today,
D. Kendra Francesco

P.S. I’m an asthmatic who got a huge shock to learn that it’s a lung disease. When Dr. Meiser asked me what I thought asthma was, I stammered, “It’s just… it just means I can’t breathe well sometimes.” He nodded and gave me a brochure about asthma. It certainly opened my eyes!

What are some of the things that take your breath away – either figuratively or literally?

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