Asthma symptoms can be triggered by exposure to an allergen, irritants in the air, and extreme weather conditions. Even exercise or illness can trigger asthma symptoms. Today, my asthma was triggered by coconut!
For me, asthma is particularly triggered by breathing cold air or inhaling any type of strong odor -- whether pleasant like perfumes or not-so-pleasant like some household cleaners. You might be wondering what does that have to do with coconut? I'll let what happened to me today explain that answer.
...As I entered a small room at a medical facility, my throat, tongue, and eyes began to immediately burn. Then I started coughing uncontrollably making it difficult to breathe. It didn't take long to realize the room contained a wall-mounted air freshener puffing out coconut-infused room deodorizer. Ordinarily, I would have left the area right away. But today, I was assisting someone who is disabled and couldn't leave quickly. I covered my nose and mouth with a medical mask which is always my first line of defense when inhalants can't be avoided. It helped, but the irritation to my airways had already set in.
In what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was just a few minutes I was able to leave the room. I reached in my purse for my crisis inhaler quickly taking the recommended puff. Then, I looked for the Benadryl in my purse, but I'd removed it and forgotten to put it back. That's a problem that I'll be sure doesn't happen again!! Since I only live a few minutes from the facility, I drove home knowing that the minute I stepped inside my house I was headed for the Benadryl bottle.
After using the inhaler and taking the Benadryl, it took about an hour for my airways to settle down, my nasal passages to quit rebelling, and the burning in my eyes, throat, and tongue to stop. With the crisis now under control, it was time to address the issue with the facility. What?? Call the facility?? Yes! How will others understand unless awareness is raised?
I called the facility asking to speak with the head of their housekeeping department. I very kindly explained what had happened to me. Then, I briefly (and kindly) acquainted the department head with facts concerning coconut allergies and asked if the room freshener could be replaced with something else. He seemed genuinely surprised to learn of coconut allergies and was very willing to help alleviate any further problems. He promised to research what they could use that might be more fragrance-neutral and told me that it could take 2-3 days before it was changed. Naturally, I was very appreciative because I frequent this medical facility quite often.
Then it happened. This is the point that I knew he didn't get it at all. Here's our conversation:
Head of Department: "I'm sorry for any inconvenience this caused you."
Me: "Thank you. But this wasn't just an inconvenience. This could have been life-threatening."...
Sometimes I wonder that by writing this blog I'll tell too much about me or make it too much of my personal journey. I think if there is anything that I want this blog to accomplish, it's to not only offer a supportive role for the allergy community but to educate both those with and without allergies. I should say that I am not a medical professional nor do I have any special training. What I do have is life experience in living with allergies. What I can tell you is that people with food allergies are not just picky eaters, but they have a life-threatening condition that they'd rather not have. I can tell you that people with asthma or inhalant allergies aren't opposed to the fragrances in the room because they just don't like the smell, but they prefer to breathe without the complications of an asthma attack.
Asthma affects more than 24 million people in the United States alone. Food Allergies affect over 15 million. Awareness needs to be raised. Hopefully, we can gently and kindly educate one person at a time.