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Meghan F., IL

I was diagnosed with asthma at a very young age. It’s something I’ve always known I had, but for a long time it wasn’t a huge issue in my life. As a child I had to have breathing treatments for an hour in the morning and an hour each the evening.

I vividly remember sitting in my living room attaching the mask over my head, making sure the tube was connected to the machine and then turning it on. I kind of thought it was cool to hear the machine running and see the smoke blowing out. My mom always told me to take a deep breath, so I could blow out all the "smoke." It was more of a game back then, because I didn't entirely understand what having asthma entailed.

Throughout my adolescent years my asthma improved and really wasn't an issue until junior year of high school. I had been playing lacrosse for two years, but that year I found myself wheezing and coughing while running and for far too long afterwards. It always bothered me, because I thought I was in decent shape and didn't know why I just couldn't breathe.

It wasn't until later that I realized the muggy air was filled with invisible pollutants that were tainting the air I was breathing. I was reluctant for a while to get an inhaler, because I always felt sports induced asthma was just another way of saying you were out of shape. It really wasn't until

When I started college in Chicago and began getting weekly shots for my allergies, I began taking my asthma as seriously as I should. About a year and a half ago, I took a breathing test that showed my lung capacity was at 5% less than it should be. I went back a few months later when I was going through a particularly bad period with my allergies and learned my lung capacity was almost 15% less than it should be. That really put things into perspective and has shown me that asthma is not something I can always control.

There are days I go running through my neighborhood or along the lake and can't go more than 10 minutes without having to slow down or pause because I am breathing so heavily. Inside on a treadmill, I can go for at least half an hour and keep an even breath. I'm realizing it is not my physical fitness but the air quality that is slowing me down. Certain days when the pollution and the allergen index are high, I become winded just walking in between buildings on campus. Dirty air magnifies my daily struggle just to breathe normally. Until I can take my right to breathe healthy air for granted, I will be fighting for air alongside the American Lung Association.

First Published: April 12, 2012

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