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Health Note

May is Asthma Awareness Month

Hello, Rainbow Rose and Allies!

Of all the "themed" health months, May is my favorite, because it's asthma month. Probably because I have asthma, but despite it being annoying and sometimes limiting, it is just so darn fascinating to learn about!

For example - did you know that asthma is not one, but TWO processes? 

One part is inflammation - it turns out our tiny airways (bronchioles) have nice and soft, and fluid-filled lining which accomplishes the amazing task of heating and humidifying the air we breathe, so it's nearly body temperature by the time it hits our alveoli. But this nice lining can also get inflamed, and when it swells, it makes those tiny airways smaller (bad for breathing!).

On top of that, the second part is bronchoconstriction. The same lining of those same bronchioles have actual muscle fibers in them! This is awesome, when we are being chased by a tiger, because our little airways can expand, so we can get more oxygen and run faster! But when those muscles get exposed to something irritating (I'm talking about you, Mr. Pollen), then it can be the opposite - and our airways constrict (also bad for breathing!).

Both inflammation and bronchiconstriction make moving air hard. Sometimes, it can feel like our lungs are FULL, we just can't move the air.

But that's only part of the interesting stuff. I think that asthma helps us understand all sorts of lung diseases. For example - did you know that aerosols land in the bronchioles? And did you know that some cause inflammation!?!? Like, for example, COVID. Or, smoke from Canadian wildfires. Did you experience either of those things? Remember how the breathing felt? Hard to breathe out? It's a different cause than (typical) asthma, but the same result. And it's one of the reasons asthma sufferers have to be extra attentive about environmental air quality, and diseases like COVID (and the Flu, etc.).

Fortunately, we have medicines for asthma, including anti-inflammatory medications like steroids, and anti-bronchoconstriction medications. Having medications from both these classes, can sometimes mean the difference between annoying symptoms, and a trip to the hospital.

One last note, on binding: Binding can be validating, and is important to mental health and well-being for many gender diverse people. But it can also affect lung capacity. That is not the same thing as asthma (which affects air flow) but the two go hand in hand. If you have asthma, and you bind, I recommend you use a binder designed for that purpose. To find a brand that works for you, consider meeting with a group at Rainbow Rose Center, and get some tips and try out a few. And know how to manage your asthma symptoms, especially when you have a flare - work out a plan with your healthcare provider. Sometimes it can help to be creative about sleep and other times when you can manage your asthma and unbind or alter binding to be less restrictive, to help you continue to live as your full self at other times.