How do you handle working and asthma?

Does your asthma force you to have to take time off from work?

I'm very blessed in that my job is a telecommute job, so I can work from home and "hack, hack, hack" away with no one complaining.

It wasn't just the really bad "flare" days that were a problem, either. When I worked a "public job," especially in an office setting, sometimes all that coughing would make people look at me like I was a Typhoid Mary, and my bosses would sometimes send me home. And that doesn't count

  • the extra doctor's appointments, or
  • the times when, even if I felt like I could work when I got there, I felt absolutely too wiped out to be behind the wheel of a car, or
  • when I'd get a migraine from having to use my inhaler or a neb. 

A study on said this:

Compared with patients without asthma, patients with asthma experience significantly higher direct medical costs and, although modest, significantly higher work loss. Treatments or interventions that prevent or reduce asthma symptoms may have a beneficial effect on medical costs and work absenteeism.

So how do you juggle work and asthma? Do you have an understanding boss? Can you work from home if you have to?


Comments 28

  • Jen

    *bump*. I know this has been a topic of conversation lately. Here's a good place for all of us to discuss work issues related to asthma. 


  • Gloria

    Yes, this is a very appropos topic for me, since I gave only had this problem for eight months. Having just gotten a nebulizer, I am hoping that I can better manage my asthma when I fet exposure to perfume.

    I have one year four months to go before I can take full  benefit retirement. I am hoping to find ways to cope with my adult onset asthma so that I don't have to leave early.

  • Jen

    Let us know if the nebulizer helps. Also, have you tried air purifiers there yet?  

  • Gloria

    I used the neb after a heavy pefume exposure that left me feeling very ill. Within about ten minutes of using it I was starting to feel much better!  What a relief to have something that works for rescue! Is saved me from many hours if misery.

  • K8sMom2002

    Gloria, is the neb still helping? Are your bosses understanding about giving you a break to use it if someone with heavy perfume comes in?

  • Gloria

    Good morning. The neb has helped. I pack it up and bring it to work with me. No problem using it at work if I need it.

    On the 20th I have an appointment with an allergist. Then a few days after that I will see my internist again, at which time I will inquire again about a new pulmonologist. 

    The other thing I decided to do, since I acquired this asthma from a bout with the flu due so a coworker insisting on coming to work sick, is next flue season if someone insists on coming in sick, I will let them know either they work sick or I work. I will not work with them there! Since I cannot get flu or pneumonia immunization, I must be proactive about my own health or risk the potential of further long term difficulties. I know this is not a complete solution, because winter visitors come in bringing all kinds of illness, sometimes coughing directly in my face. But, if a coworker comes in with a full blown flu, I get tremendous constant exposure and I know I will get sick and end up loosing workdays anyway, so might as well use those days avoiding the hazard. I will be 64 in early February; and I can't believe that after all the public announcement made every year, some people are oblivious to the hazards that the flu presents to children and older people!

    I will also use air sprays and antiseptic wipes on common surfaces.

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, Gloria, I know exactly what you mean! I remember first coming up against this when my mom was really sick with COPD. I understood for the first time how someone else's push to work under the weather could really, really cause my mom to get super sick.

    I try to be understanding — so many companies, especially in retail, use part-time staff with no sick day benefits, so if a person is out sick, they miss a day's pay. 

    But at the same time, people have to understand that the flu and other viral infections are easily shared, especially at work, and it can be very hard on people with asthma or other chronic health conditions. You especially are vulnerable because you CAN'T take the flu or pneumonia shot.

    Here's a handout with some recommendations from the CDC about — maybe you could print that out and post it near where you clock in and clock out?

  • Gloria

    Unfortunately it seems that most of the people I work with prefer ignorance of these simple facts; and the best thing I can do is be proactive for my own health. Yes, this makes me very angry, but my anger, of course, will change nothing. I dread this coming flu season, but at least this will be the last one I have to bear. I don't want to get pneumonia and have that affect my lungs as it already has my bronchials! 

  • Kathy P

    I really wish people would stay home when they are sick! I don't know if it's denial or bravado thinking they can push through and be the hero for still working. Um no, you are infecting the whole place! And especially a place where you interface with customers! Do you think you could use that angle to your advantage? Don't want workers infecting customers, customers are less likely to stay and shop/buy if someone is sick.

  • Gloria

    Believe me, I have attempted sound reasoning to no avail. So my only recourse is active self protection.

    In my previous career I was a supervisor in health care. If anyone came in sick, I immediately sent him or her home!

  • K8sMom2002

    Gloria, that was definitely the best strategy for everyone. When I worked with a home health care company, they had strict protocols against people working sick, and they really encouraged (bribed, cajoled, whatever it took) to get their workers to take a flu shot. Most did. 

    I'm a huge believer in hand-washing. It really does help — especially if you get in the habit of NOT touching your face, which is awfully hard to do. During the peak of flu season, I've also seen cashiers at big chain discount stores wear gloves when they're checking people out — I would ask, though, that if you do that, to please not wear latex gloves, as my DD is one of the ones who is allergic to latex.

    What does your doctor say about strengthening your immune system? I know you've mentioned that you have an auto-immune disease. Are there any particular steps you can take to help? 

  • Gloria

    Since I cannot get flu or pneumonia immunizations, my doctor suggests I take Turmeric, which I have been faithfully using for three years or so. It does provide, I think, limited benefits, but last year it could not hold up to the onslaught of a thoughtless coworkers Typhoid Mary like disregard for sound health practices.

  • K8sMom2002

    Fingers crossed that your bosses will back you up and not let her come to work sick … and that they will understand that it's basically her or you.

  • Gloria

    Unfortunately, he didnot and will not…one year four months to go and counting!

  • Kathy P

    Here is an interesting article to share w/ your boss –

    Another possible option would be to look into . With the asthma and your other issues, you may qualify.

  • K8sMom2002

    I have to at that — I'm so klutzy when it comes to bikes! I've envied people who effortlessly ride bikes, but I'm totally uncoordinated. I was a lot older than most people when I learned to do things like ride a bike or swim … 

    Glad you could enjoy the outdoors, though! Biking is great for the lungs!

    Wish me well today … I have grocery shopping, which means facing the cleaning aisle at the grocery store … sigh. But I can do it! My lungs feel pretty good today. 

  • Gloria

    Oh, I know what you mean about the cleaning products aisle. The worst! I hack and bark like a dog from a few aisles away until I get far enough away from it. Good luck with that one!

  • K8sMom2002

    Thanks, Gloria! I survived the cleaning products aisle, but then forgot about pumping gas … don't know why that aggravates my lungs so much. 

    Are you planning on any more bike rides today? 

  • Gloria

    Good morning. I got up at the crack of dawn and just got back from a nice bike ride.

    You mentioned pumping gas. I guess I'm lucky, that doesn't bother me at all. Sometimes, however, I will start hacking and I don't know why. That happened to me yesterday. It is a mystery.

    Hope you have a great day!

  • K8sMom2002

    Yay for bike rides, and boo on mystery triggers/attacks! Do you keep a diary or a journal of your attacks or when you have to use your neb in a "rescue situation?"

    Sometimes what helps me figure those out is if I jot down the time I had the attack or had to use my rescue inhaler, and what I was doing in the minutes, hours and day leading up to it. 

    You can't always figure it out that day, but looking back, often you can see a pattern. That's how it was with me and my DD. I'd definitely take a moment to log attacks so that you can share that info with your doctor.

  • Gloria

    Great Idea! I haven't been doing that. Any time I have an attack (or a reaction of any kind) I always try to consider what has changed: medication, food, environment, emotions; and I can usually figure it out. Not always, though.  I didn't think of journaling. I will put a little notebook in the bag with my neb.

  • K8sMom2002

    It's amazing what a "long view" of the history of your reactions and attacks can do to help you plan better! Suddenly patterns appear and you can see, gee, that's what all these things have in common! 

    When you're picking out your notebook or memo pad, it might be nice to get one that has a little pen or pencil loop so that you can always keep something to write with. My purse is a disaster — and everything I need right NOW always ends up in the bottom.

  • Jen

    Gloria – total pet peeve of mine when people come into work or school with a fever or major stomach issues.  I understand that you can't stay home every time you have a cold, but why people insist on things like work/school with fever/stomach stuff is beyond me.  ugh.  I hope this is a good week at work for you!