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Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

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Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby denvermikey » Tue May 14, 2013 8:09 am

After noticing a huge drop-off in my speed/endurance and having moderate to severe bronchial problems after my last three hike/climbs last fall I started to wonder if I might have asthma. Never having issues at any other times I didn't give it anymore thought through the winter. Move forward to the 9Health Fair in April, while I was waiting for my number to be called for the blood draw, I decided to check out the lung function booth. In a nutshell, the nurse said, "Now I'm no doctor honey, but I've been doing this long enough to know - you got asthma." Swell.
After verifying with my doctor we are now trying to find the right steroid dosage to maximize my lung function.

My questions is this - does anyone with asthma carry a pulse-ox meter with them on their hikes/climbs? Is this overkill? Looks like there are quite a few portable ones available for under $50.

Thanks

-Mike (wheezy)
"Every man dies, not every man really lives" - William Wallace
"Because it's there" - George Mallory
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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby jsdratm » Tue May 14, 2013 8:29 am

I got an albuterol inhaler after finding out I had exercise-induced asthma earlier this year, but I don't think carrying a pulse oximeter would help much. If you are wheezing and having trouble breathing, then you know that you need to use the inhaler. Most of the time I seem to be fine, but if I start wheezing then I take a puff and it seems to clear up.

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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby screeman57 » Tue May 14, 2013 8:34 am

As a life-long asthmatic, I can say with no doubt that there's nothing a pulse-oximeter would tell me that my wheezing won't tell me first.
"Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was." -Dag Hammarskjold

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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby TeamDino5280 » Tue May 14, 2013 8:41 am

denvermikey wrote:After noticing a huge drop-off in my speed/endurance and having moderate to severe bronchial problems after my last three hike/climbs last fall I started to wonder if I might have asthma. Never having issues at any other times I didn't give it anymore thought through the winter. Move forward to the 9Health Fair in April, while I was waiting for my number to be called for the blood draw, I decided to check out the lung function booth. In a nutshell, the nurse said, "Now I'm no doctor honey, but I've been doing this long enough to know - you got asthma." Swell.
After verifying with my doctor we are now trying to find the right steroid dosage to maximize my lung function.

My questions is this - does anyone with asthma carry a pulse-ox meter with them on their hikes/climbs? Is this overkill? Looks like there are quite a few portable ones available for under $50.

Thanks

-Mike (wheezy)




I think that carrying a pulse-ox on hikes might be a bit over kill, your body's physiological response to the asthmatic symptoms should be enough of an indicator of your current respiratory status. It sounds like a good idea that you could take periodic readings from the pulse-ox and see if there is a declining trend in your O2 saturation and maybe use this as a warning of an upcoming attack. There are a few things that could contradict this though 1.) as you increase in altitude there is less O2 and there for naturally even a person with out asthma will see a decrease in their O2 sat. 2.) In order to properly notice the trends you would need to establish a base O2 sat for your home altitude as well as the higher attitudes (ie 13,500') in order to notice if you were going out of your normal range for O2 sat. 3.) and more importantly I am not sure how fast your asthma attacks come on but usually the "bad" asthma attacks are acute, meaning that they come on suddenly with out warning. So you could be trending a roughly normal O2 sat range then have an acute bronco-spasm a minute later that the O2 sat trend would really give you no warning of. Also, talk to your Dr. about the inhalers that they are giving you, steroid inhalers are used for the long term treatment of asthma and not immediate relief of acute bronco spasm. Usually asthmatics will have the steroid inhaler for treatment but will also be given a "rescue" inhaler of albuterol which is a bronco dilator for immediate treatment of a acute asthma attack. All in all it wouldnt hurt to carry a pulse OX but your body's own physiological responses should be enough to let you know. Maybe Mountianmedic will hop in he always has great medical advice!
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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby crestone14ers » Tue May 14, 2013 8:46 am

denvermikey wrote:My questions is this - does anyone with asthma carry a pulse-ox meter with them on their hikes/climbs? Is this overkill? Looks like there are quite a few portable ones available for under $50. Thanks
-Mike (wheezy)


NO. I carry albuterol/Pro Air and take a few hits prior to starting out. I also drink coffee a very good bronchial dilator.

If you 'think' you have asthma... go see a doctor AND a pulmonologist.

Advice on this or any forum... is circumspect. Every person's physical (and mental) makeup are different.

Feeling lousy or having trouble getting air into the system can come from different sources.

Sometimes, folks have bad days on the peaks. :wink:
“The strength of an individual is not measured by how much one can control others, but by how much one can control oneself.” Hidy Ochiai

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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby denvermikey » Tue May 14, 2013 9:16 am

Thanks for the responses. Sounds like taking a pulse-ox meter may be overkill. This will be the first season that I will be knowingly dealing with asthma. The 'attacks' last year didn't happen until after I was finished with the hikes. Tight chest, hacking/coughing and wheezing, etc. I have been given a rescue albuterol inhaler and now a QVar daily inhaler. Still charting capacities daily to fine tune the appropriate dosage to hopefully maximize my lung capacity. Right now I am at 500 and should be at 650 based on age and height. ](*,)
Hadn't heard of the coffee thing, although that works for me!

Think I just need to learn a new pace, and bring along the ol rescue inhaler. Was advised by doctor to take 2 puffs 30 min before hike and 4 hours into it.
Trying to get into a clinical study with NJ, they pay for your meds! (Man, QVar is expensive :wft: )
"Every man dies, not every man really lives" - William Wallace
"Because it's there" - George Mallory
"In the end it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years" - Abraham Lincoln
"You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough" - Mae West
"Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world." - Unknown

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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby HuskyRunner » Tue May 14, 2013 9:48 am

screeman57 wrote:As a life-long asthmatic, I can say with no doubt that there's nothing a pulse-oximeter would tell me that my wheezing won't tell me first.


Same here, for me it's about managing symptoms and that's something I'm pretty in tune with, a pulse ox might give me a specific number but that doesn't really help me much. I use Advair for daily management and it's done the trick for over a decade, I rarely need to use the albuteral. Good cardio fitness helps a lot, I'm not a fast trail runner but I try to get in the mileage and hills every week and it makes a big difference in the mountains.
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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby CSchoick » Tue May 14, 2013 11:00 am

Sounds like you already have a good plan in place with a Dr. - good choice.

I wouldn't get too worried about your capacity numbers based on a chart of age/height. That number is valuable to note changes over time as you are fine tuning a management plan. I'm a lifelong asthmatic and have been symptom free for 10+ years. I can't recall using a rescue inhaler in a very long time. My number is lower than standard on a chart, but I feel fine.

Conditioning has certainly helped me, and I'll still get out of breath at times, but everyone does when pushing it hard enough. As long as I catch my breath in a minute or so that is a sign of a good workout for me, not an attack.

FWIW my doctor has recommended hot tea over coffee.

Don't despair over this, it is a VERY manageable condition. I spend less than 30 seconds a day medicating this condition.

Lastly, asthma is often triggered from allergens. Several doctors / health folks have told me the cleaner mountain air is a very good thing for asthma despite it being "thin".

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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby Teresa Gergen » Tue May 14, 2013 11:04 am

Did you do a methacholine challenge test or just a spirometry test? A methacholine test will confirm that it's asthma and not something more serious that might require a different form of treatment.

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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby Mark A Steiner » Tue May 14, 2013 12:03 pm

Have any posters here (or follow-up posters) taken a PFT (pulmonary-function test) as part of establishing the presence of absence of asthmatic condtions? This question may be a partial re-state of Teresa's question.
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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby Teresa Gergen » Tue May 14, 2013 12:37 pm

It's not uncommon for doctors to assume you have asthma if you wheeze or seem to have trouble getting enough air, not do further tests, and just pass out prescriptions for inhalers.

Long-term use of inhaled steroids often leads to osteoporosis, increasing the risk of broken bones and bones that will not heal properly. Albuterol inhalers do not contain steroids; many maintenance asthma inhalers do. If you use a steroid inhaler regularly, you may want to monitor your bone density every one or two years with a DEXA scan.

Asthma occurs when the bronchial tubes constrict due to encountering a "trigger" than you're sensitive to. The trigger can be various allergens, exercise, or so forth. A person can have or develop more than one trigger.

A spirometry test measures air flow, which can be low for reasons other than asthma. Or, it may read normal because your asthma is exercise-induced, and they didn't conduct a treadmill test in connection with the spirometry test.

A methocholine challenge test simulates exposure to an asthma trigger while you sit in a chair. My understanding is that if the test is positive, it's asthma. If it's negative, your situation may warrant further pulmonary tests to determine if you have a more serious condition. You may need a treadmill test, or a laryngoscopy or V/Q Scan to see if you have an obstruction. A more serious condition may require different treatment.

If at any point your own doctor is no longer offering a solution that works for you, I'd highly recommend National Jewish Hospital in Denver, the #1 pulmonary facility in the country.

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Re: Asthma/Pulse-Ox meters

Postby screeman57 » Tue May 14, 2013 1:22 pm

denvermikey wrote: I have been given a rescue albuterol inhaler and now a QVar daily inhaler.


I never go into the backcountry without my emergency albuterol inhaler, but rarely have to use it. Once I had a terrible attack without it, and it was a nightmare.

denvermikey wrote: Hadn't heard of the coffee thing, although that works for me!


I saw a study about 15 years ago that showed coffee can help in an emergency if medication isn't available, but the amounts required were enormous. Don't remember, exactly, but way more than anyone would normally drink at one time. I tried it once with no results.

denvermikey wrote: Think I just need to learn a new pace, and bring along the ol rescue inhaler.


I've never had a reaction while within my aerobic threshold--only when I go anaerobic. But, as has been stated already here, get to know your own triggers well.
"Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was." -Dag Hammarskjold

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