I've noticed from reading other asthma blogs that I'm not alone in being discreet about using my inhaler. Yes, even though I've had this disease 40 years, and even though I'm an adult and most people around me know I have it, I still hate to use my rescue inhaler (my Albuterol) in front of other people.
It's been this way my whole life. It was 1980, and I was 10, when I got my first Alupent inhaler. My mom made me take it to school. Considering I was small for my age, and the inhaler was slightly bulkier than the ones we have today, that inhaler created a bulge in my pants. Yes, that in itself was embarrassing for a kid.
So, needless to say, I created a seat in the back of the class and stayed back there unless I absolutely had no choice. And when I was having asthma symptoms, that inhaler stayed put. I didn't want anyone to know I had it. I didn't want to answer whatever questions people had. I didn't want people to know I was sick. And, most important, I didn't want to be in the spotlight where the teacher and other kids would notice the bulge.
And, since my teachers never noticed I was having asthma symptoms, my asthma often went untreated while I was in school.
I know this sounds stupid, but it's how it was. And during recess I would stand by the side of the building instead of playing with the other kids. It was easier to not participate than risk being the center of attention. Of course the fact I was allergic to everything outside, and had exercise induced asthma, didn't help.
This behavior, coupled with the fact my nose was always dripping, ultimately lead me to being the easy person to pick on. Of course, one would hope, this type of thing would never happen today, as most parents and teachers are better educated about asthma, and asthma in children is better controlled by modern asthma wisdom and asthma medicine.
So, needless to say, there were many days I conveniently forgot my inhaler.
Ironically, one of the kids who picked on me when I was 10 later became a good friend of mine. We worked together at a local A&W when we were teens. One day the topic of my asthma was brought up, and she said, "I remember we picked on you because you were the little, easy to pick on kid who was always coughing and wiping his nose. I feel really bad. I never would have picked on you if I would have known you were sick."
"The thing was," I told her, "is I didn't think of myself as sick. To me, it was normal to be short-of-breath all the time. As a kid you don't know any better."
Yet, even as an adult, I still hate to use my inhaler in public. I will openly discuss my asthma, but I will rarely use my rescue inhaler in public.
When I first started my job as an RT at Shoreline Medical in 1998 I would use my inhaler whenever I needed it. And, before long, people were looking at me awkward and asking me questions, and I'd be forced to explain to them why I was using it. Since I don't like to be the center of attention, I chose to use my inhaler when no one else is around.
One day it was really busy, and I so happened to have a cold, and asthma symptoms. We were in the ER working on a sick patient, when I turned around and puffed on my inhaler. I think I did it more out of habit than anything. I needed it, and I used it.
Once things calmed down, the nursing supervisor cornered me, "Rick, you're sure using your inhaler a lot. Are you okay?"
I am? Shoot! I better be more careful," I thought. "No, I'm doing fine," I said.
"If you're fine," she said, "then why are you using it so much?"
"Ummm, ahhh, eeee, ahhhhh...."
See! It's easier to be discreet. It's easier to find a closet. It's easier to find an empty room. It's easier to wait to use it until you find a moment where you are alone to use it.
Out in the real world, it's easier to be a discreet inhaler user, unless you like the spotlight.