Here is what it means to have asthma
Hiking with asthma is possible. But first things first. What does it mean to have asthma? It means that the lungs are overly sensitive to changes in altitude, air pollution (read that as smoke and dust mostly), hot or cold air, allergens and even air that is too dry. With that in mind, you can now be able to find out whether it is indeed safe for you to go hiking when you have asthma, or not.
Today, more than 17 million people in the USA know they have asthma. However, knowing is not enough and accidents do happen. Ask anyone who has a relative with asthma and they will tell you that chronic asthma is not a matter that you want to take lightly. Always treat it with the seriousness that it deserves.
On the internet, there is a lot of information for how to run faster with asthma. However, there is minimal information about how to go hiking when you have asthma.
The norm is to breathe through the nose, which has hair, mucus and membranes that filter the air of dust, allergens and other debris. However, when you hit the trails, you may exert yourself too much such that you start breathing through the mouth. That would in provoke an asthma attack. So, it would be advisable to just take it easy when you are hiking. Whatever you do, try very hard to breathe through your nose only.
Sometimes, you may know that you have asthma and therefore you will be duly prepared for the hike with an inhaler, the right clothing, camping stove and so on. But what if you lose your inhaler? What will you do out there on the trails? Does that mean it is a death sentence for you? It should not be, but that is only unless you know what to do.
Most important tips for hiking with asthma
Pack your asthma inhaler. That is very important and should be the first item to go into your hiking backpack. If you also suffer problems like sinus congestion, allergies and colds, you can also pack an inhaler like my MyPurMist Steam Inhaler. Go through your packing list just one more time in case you forget anything.
Check with your doctor. This is important because the information that you find online can be a bit conflicting. For example, some people say that high altitudes are good for asthma while others say they are not.
Know your body well. If you start breathing fast, stop and rest.
If you are going hiking in a group, let your hiking partner know that you are asthmatic. Thus, they will ask you whether you have brought your inhaler, a good reminder. In addition, they will not be caught offhand if you have an asthmatic attack.
If it is the first time to go hiking when you have asthma, start with the easiest trails first. As your lungs get used to the change in air, you can advance and even maybe take high altitude trails.
Know everything you can about asthma and the triggers that cause attacks. That way, you will be able to avoid them where you can.
Always tell your family where you are going and when they should expect you back. That way, if there is delayed return, they will start checking on you.
Take your asthma medicine with you. There are many types of these medicines in the market. Let your doctor subscribe. Chest and nasal decongestant products also work and you can have one or two with you. This is the 21st century and there are many products to assist you live a high quality life even if you have chronic asthma.
Make daily exercise part of your lifestyle. This should not be too hard for you if you have your asthma under control. You can find out the types of exercises that you can undertake every day. Exercising everyday should help your lungs develop the stamina that you need to go backpacking and hiking. You can start on an inclined treadmill.
When packing, do not carry too much weight on your back. Buy a small travel backpack maybe a 20-liter one. The last thing that you want is a heavy load on your wheezing lungs.
Protect your inhaler. Pack it in its carry case. You can buy a nice case that will give you good value for your money online. That way, your asthma inhaler is kept safe when you are outdoors.
If you are hiking with kids, do carry allergy medicine for kids with asthma. Consider this a preventative measure.
When on the camping site or when hiking overnight, avoid the things that trigger your asthma. Some of them like smoke, dust can be easy to avoid. However, when hiking through wild flowers and forests, the pollen may also trigger attacks. Prepare for that.
Cover your face when hiking. This is important as it ensures the air you breathe in is warm and as a result, it cannot affect the muscles surrounding your bronchial tubes causing them to reduce in size. When packing your hiking boots, also pack a balaclava or a large bandanna for your face.
Carry your cell phone or go hiking with a friend or family member. This is especially important for people who get serious asthma attacks. It might even be important to wear a medical tag to let people know of your condition just in case you need help.
Finally, sleep in a well insulated sleeping bag because the air will be warm. You may as well want to sleep on a camping cot rather than the hard ground as it may be too cold for you.
What if you did not pack your inhaler?
It has happened before, and it can happen again. People have discovered for the very first time that they are asthmatic, on the trails. Therefore, it is good to arm yourself with a few guidelines that can help you survive if you suddenly discover you are asthmatic and help is far away.
When you engage in vigorous hiking, you could be up for an asthma attack. Exercise in not too warm weather could cause the muscles around the bronchial tubes to contract and reduce the surface area of these tubes. This means less air gets to the lungs.
Should the air on the trail start getting cold, wrap a piece of clean cloth around the nose so that it can warm the air you are taking in. That way, only warm air gets inside your chest.
You need to relax as much as possible. Mostly what happens is that there is air trapped in your lungs and unless you exhale, you cannot be able to take another breath. So, relax, lie down and try to exhale through the mouth.
Stay away from anything that could have caused the attack. Smoke, viruses, dust and so on can cause an attack. Some plants too can cause an attack. It is important to identify what caused the attack to save yourself from further attacks.
If the conditions are wet, wear something around your mouth and nose. Even when wet, the air you breathe in will be warmed and will be good for your lungs.
Precaution, precaution! You can never be too careful when you are a victim of chronic asthma. Always carry your inhaler with you. Thankfully, it is small and easy to carry along. Just slip it in your pocket, or put in the diaper bag for your kid. Hiking with asthma need not be tough on you or prevent you from having outdoor fun.