I think I developed asthma at the age of 12. I think it was then because I stopped liking running suddenly and was complaining of chest problems. But I interpreted those problems first as my heart going nuts and then as psychological issues. It wasn’t until about ten years later that I got an asthma diagnosis after a really bad chest infection.
This is how I was diagnosed: the nurse measured my peak flow (you blow into a tube really hard to see how much you can puff), gave me medicine, measured it again. My lungs were stronger after the medicine, so I had asthma.
I was given a drug to help control my asthma but told that if I was having a good week, I could reduce the dosage myself. Then I changed doctors and I had to have an asthma review. I got a really weird doctor who gave me a different steroid and then when it didn’t help, said “That was a child’s dosage really” and then wanted to experiment with higher dosages. When I came to Denmark, I just told my doc I needed the old inhaler.
About six months ago, I finally got the courage to say to my doc that I was getting colds every six weeks and could someone please help me with that. (I had been scared that I’d just get given anti-depressants and a pat on the head). He said maybe it was my asthma playing me up, which I had not even considered.
I did a few lung function tests in his office, tried a new steroid and it didn’t really help so he sent me to the hospital. The hospital sent me three appointments. Three. One a week. When I got the letter, I was pretty cross. Three days off work, why couldn’t they put the appointments together or SOMETHING. My boyfriend rang them to re-arrange and they said they absolutely needed to run things like that, so we set them for July when I would be on holiday.
The first appointment was with a nurse, she measured my lung function with a spirometer which I hadn’t tried before. She gave me a REALLY GOOD drug and measured my lungs again. Then she tested my skin for allergies. Then I had a lung X-ray. And I had to measure my peak flow three times a day for two weeks.
The second appointment was also with a nurse. I knew this nurse already because I taught her kids and we chatted in English but did the nursing part in Danish. She irritated my lungs until they were 20% worse than they were before and then gave me the really good drug from the week before to put me back to normal. She said “You definitely have asthma but you need to see the doctor next week to have it confirmed” and we had a laugh about how doctors like to be gatekeepers to medicine.
I had the appointment with the doctor today. She was really nice. She went through my results with me. I was “one million percent” definitely suffering with asthma. I have allergies to dust, grass and cats. My lungs are “lovely” according to the X-ray.
And then she put me on the drug I started with. Apologised for how expensive it is ($106 US per inhaler). I asked about the allergies. She said if I had hayfever, there was a nasal spray. Told me about controlling levels of house dust (which I’m already on because I am allergic to house dust) and said to get rid of my cat if I had one.
It seems to me, the UK approach, while perhaps not very thorough, was a lot cheaper. That was a lot of tests just to find out the things I already knew and go back on the drug I was already on. Why test my allergies if they weren’t going to do anything about them? I am so glad I didn’t have any days off for this but I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t get to go on holiday because I was waiting around for the appointments.
And by the by, the colds-every-six-weeks thing just stopped. In April or so. I have had a cold since then but it was very mild. Maybe two days of feeling like I was going to get sick and then that was it. So maybe it had nothing to do with asthma after all.