The Invisibility of Asthma
One of the problems with asthma and the concept of *looking* sick, beyond your basic lack of understanding in the greater non-asthmatic world, is the way a chronic illness with little to no visual cues doesn’t generate much interest in changing third-party behavior.
Recently, Danielle over at Life with These Lungs discussed how public smoking, both indoors and out, can start her lungs flaring pretty seriously. It struck me, then, how the right people – smokers themselves – either aren’t hearing or aren’t understanding or aren’t caring (or all three) about this very right message:
Your secondhand smoke hurts people. Sometimes, it kills them.
And I think asthma’s invisible nature is a major part of that problem.
Longtime Asthma Mom readers know that, to my everlasting shame, I used to smoke. Back before I had kids and my older daughter’s diagnosis taught me to appreciate good lung health, I averaged about a pack a day and two packs on late nights out. In fact, it was that first pregnancy with AG that made me quit for good. So in that message above, by your I mean mine. My secondhand smoke could’ve hurt people. My secondhand smoke could’ve killed them.
It looks ridiculous when I type this out, but when I smoked I just didn’t understand how much my cigarettes could hurt others and not just me. Partially, and contributing to that everlasting shame, I was too self-absorbed and too focused on having a good time to care.
And partially, I never saw my smoke affect anybody but me. That’s not an excuse I’m making for myself, but it is the point of this post. If asthma patients could let smokers look inside their red and ravaged bronchial passages for just two seconds – well, let’s just say I certainly would’ve quit smoking long before I did. Or at least quit doing it around non-smokers.
The same goes for contributing to air pollution in other ways or sending contagious kids to school. These choices are easy when people have no one in their immediate circle with respiratory problems and/or who can’t *see* and therefore, understand, the seriousness of an invisible illness like asthma.
That’s why I’m writing this in honor of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week .
Because that 10 year-old kid I walk around with all the time?
Is not really as healthy as she looks.
Or my asthma blogger friend, Kerri, who just started university in Canada?
And this sentence below? Is never a good idea:
But you don’t look sick.