Asthma Fatigue or Just Plain Tired? The Tipping Point

Twelve days until Christmas. Eighteen before New Year’s Eve. Class parties, out-of-town relatives, a houseful of cousins all under the age of 10, and Santa Claus loom in the near future.

Oh, and a cold front’s about to come through.

We’ve got a perfect storm of possible asthma triggers ahead, and fatigue is one that serves double-duty as a subtle early warning symptom, too.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAI) describes the fatigue trigger this way:

Emotional factors alone cannot provoke asthma. However, anxiety and nervous stress can cause fatigue, which may also increase asthma symptoms and aggravate an attack.

And remember the recent research about PTSD and asthma symptoms? The link between the two strengthens every day, also firming up my–sometimes futile, considering the time of year–attempts to make sure the Asthma Girl gets plenty of rest. Basically, that means perpetuating the midline challenge. She gets to attend all the holiday events she can pack into her schedule while I get to maintain quiet vigilance and try to figure out when she’s too exhausted, headed over the edge into a flare as a result, and thus needs more sleep or at least a quiet afternoon.

But don’t forget fatigue’s sneaky duality. It can trigger asthma and it can warn of a flare already triggered. Why? Because a body using more energy to breathe than it normally does has less energy left over for everything else, making unexplained fatigue a sometimes signal of the airways not working well, a situation that’s about to get worse.

If you want a real-life example, check this out. When she was little, AG would sometimes resist a trip to the park or a quick run to the store and couldn’t explain why. One day I realized that the times we left the house despite her protests, she would inevitably wind up with what I called a *cold* and what I later learned was a *flare.*

How, then, can I tell when extreme tiredness acts as a trigger or a symptom?

I can’t sometimes. Especially since raising a kid with asthma when I don’t have it myself means I’m on the outside of the disease, trying to figure out what’s going on inside her body. It’s hard to tell where the tipping point is, that one moment when she’s too rundown and her airways respond by flaring.

Even more confusing, sometimes fatigue is a trigger and an early symptom at the same time. Reduced peak flow readings let me know when to intervene with the bronchodilator, but the early, subtle symptoms besides fatigue can give me a clue, too. Here’s a list I’ve patched together from the asthma sites that appear over on the sidebar:

1. Mood swings
2. Crankiness
3. Fatigue
4. Watering eyes
5. Dark circles under the eyes
6. Cold symptoms–coughing, sneezing, and runny nose
7. Trouble sleeping
8. Restlessness
9. Low exercise tolerance
10. Any changes in breathing
11. Any changes in peak flow readings
12. Anxiety

(This list was part of a larger BellaOnline article.)

70 responses to “Asthma Fatigue or Just Plain Tired? The Tipping Point”

  1. Asthmagirl says:

    You’ve nailed it again.
    I had dinner with a friend Tuesday and she noted that I was subdued although I thought I was doing well. Yesterday the asthma gods struck and I’m now flaring. I don’t know if it was holiday stress, or fatigue or air quality (it’s been iffy) or a combination of all three. Have a doctor’s appt to get pred this afternoon. My least favorite option, but the best one at this point.

    Hoping your AG is doing well. She’s got a great mom!

  2. Asthma Mom says:

    Can you believe it? After I posted this today and after basketball practice, she said her nose had started running at school and now her head *felt weird.* Sure enough, she’s dropped about 10 points–still in her green zone but heading down, so we broke out the albuterol. Looks like you and her are starting up the traditional (for her, at least) winter holiday flaring season.

    Sorry you have to go on the orals. :( I hate ‘em, too, but they sure have saved the AG more than once.

  3. Asthmagirl says:

    I usually flare in the fall, but this year held on until my birthday. Saw the doc and got the oral. He says I’ll either be better by Sunday or on my way to emergency. I’ll take door number one, please!

    Hope that little AG is okay. Thank goodness for being in the green!

    Amen to online shopping! My salvation!

    Off to run the neb. Take care!

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