The Importance of Listening to Your Body When You Have a Chronic Illness

The most important guide to the state of my health is my body.

I have chronic severe asthma. I have an excellent GP. She will always squeeze me in to see her if all appointments are taken. I have a top lung specialist, but getting in to see him isn’t easy.

One mantra that all people with asthma will be familiar with is “Have an asthma plan.” Yes, I have an asthma plan. It has three stages.

1. Things are going OK. All activities are on the table, keep taking preventers.

2. Things are going haywire. Be cautious with activities. Monitor your breathing. Take up to 12 puffs of salbutamol. Make an appointment to see the doctor.

3. In trouble. Peak flow low, oxygen saturation low. Keep the salbutamol reliever going. Start steroids. Still struggling? Go to the emergency room for nebulizer and or oxygen. Struggling stopped – have a quiet, careful day. Maintain reliever use, make appointment to see the doctor.


It all seems so straightforward. But it isn’t. For starters, once the struggles to breathe kick in, there are some things your body does as an automatic response. You gasp, you breathe more shallowly, you use different muscles to breathe, you can’t think logically and eventually, you can’t speak.

When in a full flight asthma flare-up, it should be so obvious that you need medical help. But, it isn’t! Will the next reliever dose bring things under control? How long do I wait? All these decisions have to be made by a brain that doesn’t think logically!

Then prior experiences come in to further cloud things. Last time at emergency, they monitored me and said there was nothing wrong! The two visits before that, they used a nebulizer and admitted me both times. Which emergency doctor will be there? Yes, this thought does grab some of my attention.

Listening to my body is my key to living with this awful chronic illness. I can feel it in my lungs. They feel tight. It feels like there is a tight band wrapped around my chest. It feels like something is scratching on my airways. I feel so tired! I have no energy. I cough. I constantly cough up mucus.

Last night was a debate night. Will I go to emergency or will I try to manage this myself? My oxygen levels were between 87 percent and 93 percent. Below 90 percent is my “go to hospital” cutoff. But, I didn’t want to go. And, I did manage.

So, I will continue to listen to what my body is saying.

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Thinkstock photo via moodboard.

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