Karen, 35 (a veterinarian with pet allergies)
I was diagnosed with asthma around the age of 5 or 6. My early memories of asthma revolve around not being able to run as much as my friends, and worst of all not being able to horse-back ride without having an attack. There was also the constant threat of my pets being taken away because most of the doctors highly recommended that. My parents never gave in to the pressure, and for that I was grateful.
At the time of my diagnosis, I was put on various oral medications that left me feeling either sleepy or jittery. Later on, an inhaler was added to my medical regime, but all of these medicines still left me extremely jittery. They did not seem to help much -- there were many times that we had to go to the emergency room for epinephrine injections during a severe attack. The worst period was when I was 11 to 13 years old. During one severe attack, I was actually afraid I might die. Of course that didn't do much to help my breathing.
Veterinary school was a challenge. My asthma was still not under great control, and working constantly with animals did not help. My rotations through large animal medicine and surgery triggered multiple attacks. I was using an inhaler and oral theophylline at the time.
About 5 years ago, I changed physicians. The new doctor prescribed Serevent and a steroid inhaler, instead of my oral medicines. Since that change, I have done very well. I rarely use my rescue inhaler, and I am able to enjoy the outdoor activities I love most. Horses and barns no longer trigger an attack. I use an air filtration system in my home and have one room that is off limits to my cats. (They cause me more problems than my dogs.)
I am very pleased with the control I now have over my asthma.