I am an asthma sufferer. As a child I had a reasonable degree of difficulty from asthma. Some children and adults are afflicted with it to a more serious degree, some even dying of it. When I was young, there were five methods of dealing with it. One method was the inhaler. A second method was by pill. The third was by aminophylline suppository! Oh, how I hated method three! The fourth was for emergencies, by injection. The fifth was a visit to the emergency ward of the hospital.
Simply put, asthma is the inflammation and/or constriction of the airways making it difficult to draw a breath. Wikipedia describes it in greater detail: “Asthma is a very common chronic disease involving the respiratory system in which the airways occasionally constrict, become inflamed, and are lined with excessive amounts of mucus, often in response to one or more triggers.”
At the time of my childhood, I was more susceptible to outbreaks of asthma, partly because I was not aware of the cause of it so that I could take steps to alleviate it. I assume my mother did not know the cause of it at first, but later she learned it was triggered in my case primarily by cats. My allergy to cats was made known by the old-fashioned method of taking little skin-popping injections of substances representing everything from cats, dust, grass, pollen, to peanut-butter and asparagus. The little spot where I received the needle for cats blew up like a balloon and turned color!
After I entered my teen years, I had little trouble from asthma for a long time. The ampule of adrenalin dissolved in peanut oil had been discarded, pills were trashed, suppositories were out of the question, and it was even rare for me to purchase an inhaler.
Years pass. I move to Virginia, in a nice, shady, 5-acre plot with lots of trees. Gradually, I begin to display the symptoms of asthma, once again. Why? Although skin-popping tests may not be as common now, I received tests, just the same, and in a barrage of tests, there was a most curious result. I was seriously allergic to Hickory trees! I was proved to be allergic to hickory pollen!
I was able to have a low level of asthmatic attack during the day and ignore it. But, come bedtime, my difficulty breathing kept me from sleeping. So I again began the practice of occasionally using Bronkaid Mist, an epinephrine-based bronchodilator, which eliminated the problem for the night. After a while, though, I could no longer find Bronkaid Mist in my part of Virginia, and I found it necessary to switch to Primatene Mist. That was no problem. The two were much the same, and I continued on.
On occasion, when I would visit my GP, he would tell me he did not like my depending on these OTC (over-the-counter) medicines. I have never really learned why, but I finally agreed to try a different medication, a prescription inhaler. Albuterol.
Well some swear by Albuterol, but for me it was no good at all. 1. It was expensive, 2. It made me very nervous, and 3. It didn’t do the job! So, bye-bye Albuterol. The GP tried one or two more inhalers with much the same poor success, and so I stuck by my Primatene Mist. OK. Well, guess what? At age 60, I am still using it; however one of my doctors had a brainstorm, and asked me if I wouldn’t consider using yet another inhaler, namely Serevent. Guess what? It turns out it does a beautiful job for me as a maintenance medication. The OTC inhaler remains my inhaler for the sudden onset situation.
Now we come to the part that should shock, not only those afflicted with the dread asthma, but everyone else. Most unfortunately, the government is going to force the discontinuation of Primatene Mist, based on the fact that it has for a propellant, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs are known to damage the ozone layer. Isn’t it a good thing to do away with CFCs? For the most part, certainly. But what will happen to those of us who use OTC inhalers to alleviate our potentially death-dealing symptoms? Some cannot afford the high cost of maintenance medications that are available by prescription. Some don’t even have any health insurance at all. Generally the ones most in need of serious medications are those least able to afford them. It’s a fact of life.
So while I do not wish to cast aspersions on the government in this matter, I surely do hope that if Primatene Mist is done away with in the form we know it, some very useful substitute will be found that will be just as good for treating us poor, asthmatic sufferers. Is there no substitute for CFC’s? Is it the case that greed (once again) is a reason for no one trying to replace these over-the-counter life savers? Asthmatics, it would seem, should have as much right to breathe as anyone else.
Time will tell what will be done for the less fortunate among asthma sufferers, but those who have the power to decide ought to keep in mind that there is One who is looking on who can evaluate how they step up to the challenge.