Diagnosed with severe asthma 10 years ago, Isabel Camacho remembers at least two occasions when she had attacks so severe that, even with her inhaler, she felt she was taking her last breath.
“The crisis was so strong that, in fact, I looked into the eyes of my children and said goodbye to them, because I felt that I could no longer breathe,” the accountant by profession shared in a telephone interview.
“So when we see an asthmatic child or adult with a survival inhaler, it’s no joke. For us, that inhaler is the difference between living and dying,” he adds. “Yes, it’s a very delicate thing; yes, you can go to the hospital, and yes, you can die of asthma. It’s very important to understand that, because many times we underestimate asthma.”
Perhaps now, in Isabelle’s opinion, more people value that reflex action that is breathing, after a pandemic that has kept so many people conscious of their oxygen levels, for example.
But for a long time, people with asthma have also experienced a form of discrimination from those who see it only as an emotional issue; “Your body screams what your mind shuts down,” Isabel heard.
“I mean, no, let’s see, bear with me. Yes, it’s multifactorial, it carries a huge emotional weight and stress, but it’s a real issue that the bronchus closes. I can’t control it.
“And once it’s closed, really, reopening it is a physical, mental, medical effort to be able to release it. And as a patient you feel it,” she continues. Is. “Imagine what a child might feel if I was telling you this as an adult.”
Of the estimated 8.5 million patients with asthma in Mexico, 12 percent are children. This chronic disease, which sometimes prevents girls and boys from attending classes, doing sports or just playing, causes inflammation and narrowing of the microscopic airways in the lungs, causing coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or chest tightness. Symptoms like stiffness appear. ,
Here Isabelle remembers what a child pulmonologist once explained to her: When the bronchus closes—as the lining of the airways swells and the muscles that surround them swell—its thickness is like that of a hair.
“And it’s like you were trying to breathe through a straw, but you squashed the straw. Can you draw air? Yes, you can. Is that enough air to breathe? No , it’s not enough. And above all, you’re not oxygenating.
“So, even though there is air, there is no oxygen in your body and therefore in your brain. The sensation of suffocation is your body clearly warning you: ‘You have no oxygen, you are going to die’ That’s how serious it is”, he insisted.
Eventually, this affected bronchial structure becomes rigid.
“This inflammation that’s in our airways, now in the pipe that carries air to the alveoli, is getting harder,” Dr. Blanca Del Rio says
“[And then]it doesn’t perform its functions well enough for good ventilation,” say experts, who add that it takes years for a patient to be diagnosed and treated. “It is estimated that they may take more than five to 10 years.”
And it’s that some of these respiratory symptoms don’t necessarily have to be severe all the time, so people are reassuring. “They say: ‘I don’t have asthma because I haven’t gone to the hospital to take care of me with oxygen and give me injectable medicine,'” says Dr. Del Rio.
“But when it reaches that stage, the patient is in crisis, it’s an exaggeration.”
In the case of Isabel, who suffered greatly from allergies as a child, and had very aggressive or even contraindicated treatments during her pregnancy – but without which she and her baby would not have been guaranteed to breathe – It was nothing until 2013 when she arrived at the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER) with a very severe crisis, which was eventually diagnosed and treated as asthma.
“In other words, if I had been diagnosed with asthma maybe 20 or 30 years ago, I would not have had severe uncontrolled asthma,” he admits.
Dr. Del Rio said, “The sooner the diagnosis, the better.”
Pharmacological options include taking so-called bronchodilators, drugs that help reduce the caliber of the bronchus, as well as steroids to reduce inflammation. However there is concern about the adverse effects of their chronic use around the latter.
Additionally, they become an expensive monthly income, sometimes even covered by medical expense services.
“So, we are really very dependent on the public sector, and today the public sector is very limited in drugs. Doctors are having to adapt treatments because of the lack of drugs,” says Isabelle, who has been developing antibodies at INER since March 2020. have been received. Monoclonal, a new generation option in the world, but not accessible to everyone.
“They give it to me every two months at INER, and my life has changed to the point that today I know what a flower smells like. lose the sense of taste,” he says. “It’s something very silly, but it really does change your life. So, the fact that everybody has access to this type of medicine in the public domain is imperative, because it changes lives, it improves lives. Is.”
An important change for adults, but especially for the little ones; Isabel concluded, “Imagine improving a child’s life which means they can have a child’s life and play football.”
Asthma and COVID-19?
Isabel Camacho was at the INER in March 2020 when the first patient with COVID-19 arrived.
Amidst the media and an almost apocalyptic atmosphere, the accountant went to his office and then rushed home to lock himself in.
“For almost the whole of 2020 I didn’t step on the pavement, because obviously my kids and my husband didn’t know how I was going to react. So, we didn’t expose ourselves to anyone; it was an imprisonment was, really, claustrophobic,” she recalls.
Like so many patients with asthma, perhaps having already become very used to assessing the situation and not exposing themselves to environments with factors that could trigger an attack, this isolation struck Isabel. from becoming infected and developing severe conditions – without forgetting the role of monoclonal antibody, the studies of which have examined its potential effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2.
“During the pandemic, everyone was closed; and because of the closure, the atmosphere in the home was not as lethal. So, most of our asthma patients were controlled. They didn’t go into a crisis,” says pediatrician Blanca del Rio Let’s celebrate
“And what was feared, that Covid would give to asthma patients, well it was not as severe as it was in other patients who had obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic problem or emphysema. It was not, thank God; Luckily, we didn’t have that,” the experts continue, acknowledging that patients with severe asthma that was not controlled could face more severe scenarios.
Asked about whether the persistent sequelae left by the pandemic disease has led to an increase in asthma cases, Dr. Del Rio said that is the case, at least from what has been reported so far.
“What Covid left behind in some patients was different types of lung problems, not just asthma, but problems with reduced lung capacity. Of course.
“But it was not necessarily the bronchi, but the parenchyma,” he says, referring to the functional tissue of the lungs. “The tube that gives us the passage of air was not affected as much as the parenchyma.”
so that i can’t breathe
Breathing in an allergen or trigger can trigger asthma symptoms. Some of the most common are:
– pet dander or fur
– dust particles
– change in climate temperature
– physical activity
– respiratory infections, such as the common cold
– strong emotions (stress)