For almost a week now I have been plagued by that insufferable sign of the impending winter season: the common cold.
Although almost clear of it, I nevertheless feel the worse is yet to come in the aftermath that brings days of coughing and choking until my head resembles an over-sized blueberry.
At this point, I usually dig out my battered blue inhaler and reintroduce myself to the elementary remedies for asthma.
The problem is, I do not take my asthma nearly seriously enough.
Growing up it seemed as though asthma was as much a part of a child’s primary school days as braces and bad hair are of the teenage ones.
Our group of little friends would sit under the pine trees and coo over the inhalers: “Wow, it’s like an egg!”; “Oh, I only have the blue one…”; “Dude! Look at my giant turbo-cylinder version!”.
The notion that asthma could be as deadly as a heart attack and swoop as sudden as a stroke remained elusive in the halcyon haze of German summers.
Fast-forward a few years, and I am only reminded of the condition when it is humid, I am ill, or have been exercising too vigorously.
The fact is, as my doctor gravely schooled me yesterday, asthma never, ever truly goes away.
Asthma has no cure.
Like a malevolent imp, it lurks behind bushes and cornices before springing upon you anew to wreak havoc with your windpipe and lungs, by which time, if you have been remiss in taking your meds, you would be royally screwed.
In our house, diabetes is the main foe: it is feared and treated with the respect accorded to such a genetic disease, with food intake and bloodcounts taken at every opportunity.
By comparison, asthma is less so; indeed, while at university I requested a new inhaler and the doctor – who was renowned for his raging incompetence – suggested that with the onsets of wheezing, I should merely open a window and inhale some fresh air.
Presumably, he was not familiar with the reality that during an attack one cannot breath, thereby negating his seemingly ingenuous cure.
All pervasive, yet little understood, asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, causing recurrent periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.
It is estimated that around 300 million people suffer from asthma worldwide.
Australia has the 3rd highest prevalence of childhood asthma in the world, with the condition costing the Australian community over $700 million each year.
An estimated 2.2 million people have asthma, including 1 in 6 children and 1 in 10 adults, while 397 people died of asthma in 2002.
Stateside, almost 450,000 American adults are admitted to an emergency room with asthma each year, of the estimated 20 million Americans suffering from the ailment.
Far from a mere opportunity to beg off school sports days, asthma is a condition that needs to be taken as seriously as any other long-term illness.
The problem lies in its ability to deceive and convince that it has disappeared by lying dormant for years at a time.
With asthma afflicting a substantial number of people, the stigma of it being a childhood ailment that kicks in on a winter day needs to be obliterated.
Just as adverts warn of the negative implications of alcohol and cigarettes, or the onset signs of a heart attack, a re-education on the true nature of asthma needs to be considered.
After all, with almost 90% of attacks preventable when treated with the correct dosage of medication, it is a clarification well worth making.