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I have lived almost my entire life in Ross County, Ohio, which is quite polluted. I remember smelling the paper mill when I was young, I don't even smell it anymore, but people comment about it when they are in Chillicothe. Much of my childhood involved using wood stoves or kerosene heating in the winter. I remember the year 2000 when my father had plastic wrap up instead of a wall and used kerosene for heating. When I was young, I was never able to run like everyone else, and my breathing bothered me from time to time. By the time I was in high school I no longer participated in any sports. But it wasn't until a few years ago, when I joined the Army, that I was diagnosed with asthma. It meant I could never meet the physical requirements and I was sent home from basic half way through, since the inhaler didn't help enough. But since then, it seems to be getting even worse. Two years ago we partially heated the house with a clothes drier, since it was very cold and the heater wasn't working at low temperatures, and I ended up in the emergency room a few times for my breathing difficulties, I could hardly stand at times. The doctor believed the clothes drier caused it because of the extra particulate matter.

Last year I moved to Warsaw, Poland, to attend a university (it is far, far cheaper and the cost of living is extremely low, so I was able to afford it), but my breathing got so bad I had to return to the US. While in Poland, a skin issue started to appear. It appeared on my legs, arms, and especially on my hands. I just realized it is only the areas that are generally exposed (below the knees, near the elbow and lower). I saw numerous dermatologists, which proscribed me multiple fungal creams, antibiotics, and finally steroids. It seems to get better and worse, but it has never gone away. At its absolute worse, it would randomly bleed, appear red, and itch. The skin remains dry. I now have a powerful steroid (“Halcinonide Cream, USP 0.1%”). I have been using it for 5 or 6 months, off and on (when it gets better and worse), but it never goes completely away. Recently it has covered almost the entire top part of my arms, from a bit above the elbow, to my knuckles, and the front of my legs, from the knees to my ankles. I also have a lot of dandruff now, which I never had before.

I returned to Warsaw for the summer, arriving in early may, and I am about to fly back to the US. With the lower cost of living, and the very low cost of medical care, it actually saved me to come here for the summer. I also met the woman I love here, and we got married this summer, which is the primary reason I came back! I plan to come back in December and have two teeth removed (with airline tickets, it is still cheaper than in the US). In the US, I live with my mother, close to a busy road. In Poland, the road isn't too busy, but pollution is high, and there is a bus terminal along the building, and a lot of buses come and go (which I'm sure releases a lot of DPM).

My wife was recently told that our pet guinea pig likely exacerbates my asthma and caused my skin problem. We got him when it started getting cold (my breathing always gets worse at that time) and this is when my skin problems and breathing began to get worse. I ended up on strong steroid inhalers but it didn't help much. I constantly felt like I was drowning. In the spring, I stopped using the steroid inhaler because it wasn't helping all that much and I was back to my almost normal state. But I hate this normal state. I honestly can't remember the last time I didn't feel like something is stuck in my throat, like peanutbutter that won't go down. Sometimes I can't sleep and I feel tired for days. In the winters, I can hardly walk to my car without feeling like I'm suffocating. I didn't have heat in my car for awhile, which made things even more difficult.

I can't afford to move out of my mom's house. I don't know what else I can do about my breathing and my skin. I thought about buying a HEPA air filter, but they are very expensive, and I don't know how much that can help. I really don't know what more I can do, the doctors I have seen haven't helped much, and it is expensive and takes a lot of time I don't have. What options do I have? What should I try to do to help with my asthma and skin? (I almost never use the "rescue inhaler" unless I really really need to, but recently I need it more) Would the HEPA filter help me with this?

I just wish I could sleep and breathe

  • There are too many possibilities here to address (let alone that the question asks for very personalized advice.) The box on the upper left hand side of this page states: Health Stack Exchange... is not intended as a substitute for individualized diagnosis and treatment by a qualified healthcare provider. Despite your problems with doctors, they are still better than the internet. – anongoodnurse Aug 2 '15 at 20:15
  • @anongoodnurse I wasn't looking for individualized diagnosis and treatment. Maybe my question isn't very clear, but my goal is to figure out what my next steps are. I tried to include a lot of background information to help with this. Jellobear's answer was very helpful in that regard. I was wondering if there is another path I could take or another kind of doctor I should see. Or maybe even another test I could benefit from (such as one concerning allergies). – zagadka314 Aug 2 '15 at 20:30
  • It's best to ask those specific questions and minimize all the personal history. I believe the question can be generalized to be helpful to more people (which is my measure for personal medical questions.) – anongoodnurse Aug 2 '15 at 20:36
  • @anongoodnurse I just created a new question about air filters and tried to make it more broad and general. I think I understand how to write questions now. Do you think I asked that one well? – zagadka314 Aug 4 '15 at 11:32
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There are numerous causes and sources of irritation for Asthma exacerbations. Your objective is finding out whether it's irritants (smoke, chemicals, lint, etc) or allergies (pollen, pet dander) that is setting you off. Once you identify the source, you can then take steps to prevent it. It also appears that you've been exposed to poor air quality for a majority of your life, and you're STILL being exposed to it. I don't imagine this will be easy, but you need to find a residence that IMPROVES your ability to breathe.

In terms of medications, Asthma is generally managed with both alpha agonists (ex: Albuterol) and corticosteroids (ex: Prednisone). You need to work closely with your primary care provider (MD, NP, PA, etc) or with a specialist (Pulmonology/Allergist/Immunology) to determine what medication regimen will provide the best results while also limiting the amount of medications you NEED to take. This is also true for your skin condition.

In short, you need to identify what causes your flares for both your Asthma and skin condition. No one will work more diligently than yourself, and in my experience, it is the patients that are involved in their care that are often the best managed. So, keep a log when your flare ups occur. Include the following:

DATE TIME What were you doing when it occurred? (At rest or duing activity? Cooking? Eating? Sleeping? Etc) Where did it occur? (Urban/Rural, Indoors/Outdoors, Specific area?) How long did it last? (If the duration last days, go back and record it) Did anything make it better or worse? (Resting? Medication? Sleeping? Etc)

You can also include other details that you feel are important. Best of luck!

  • Thank you for your answer, it made me think more about a lot of things I never considered before. Now I need to figure out how to determine if it is allergy or irritants. I'll start noting these things down. I already noticed some things. When people spray nearly anything (I HATE Axe) it really bothers me. A hot, steamy room (basically, the bathroom when someone just took a hot shower) can trigger a reaction with the first breathe. But if I avoid that air, it doesn't bother me as soon as I'm away from it. – zagadka314 Aug 2 '15 at 19:10
  • Welcome to Health SE! This post has the makings of a very good answer, but here on Health, we strongly encourage using references. They are the only way in which we can tell if information is reliable or not. If you are struggling to find good sources, check out, What are reliable sources? If you want to learn more about our site's stance on answers without references, check out, Should answers without references be immediately deleted? Thanks :) – michaelpri Aug 3 '15 at 5:20
  • Hello Michael! With regards to references, what information specifically should be referenced? Coming from a healthcare profession background, I considered much of the information posted to be uncontroversial. Is there a general rule on what necessitates a reference? Thank you! – Jellobear Aug 3 '15 at 19:46

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