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Chronic Conditions

Breaking the Cycle: Asthma Canada’s Red and Yellow Flags Campaign

Jeff Beach

President and CEO, Asthma Canada

Josh Rheaume’s transformative journey with severe asthma underscores the importance of awareness and proactive management in chronic condition care.

Asthma is a chronic disease caused by the inflammation of the airway and tightening of the muscles, blocking air flow through the lungs. It can cause symptoms like shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing.

As a member of the asthma community, Josh Rheaume’s transformative journey with severe asthma speaks volumes the impactful role lifestyle changes play in managing chronic conditions.

From childhood challenges to conquering a marathon with Team Asthma Canada, Josh has emerged as a vocal advocate, sharing his story to inspire and educate others. Reflecting on his challenging childhood, Josh recalls frequent hospitalizations and ambulance rides due to uncontrolled asthma.

“My entire childhood was that of uncontrolled lungs, hospital visits, and ambulance rides.”

Overcoming Asthma Challenges

His attempts to participate in sports were hampered, leading to frustration and the misuse of his reliever inhaler during games. In June 2020, Josh made the decision to take control of his health and condition, initiating a journey of change.

“I knew I couldn’t lay idle and continue to be scared of my lungs anymore.”

Starting with short runs, he gradually increased his distance, ultimately achieving an extraordinary feat – running 25 kilometers at the location where a childhood collapse had led to one of his worst ICU visits.

In October 2023, Josh ran his first marathon as part of Team Asthma Canada, feeling that his asthma is now properly under control for the first time in his life.

I realize I’ve conditioned my lungs, and my asthma is, for once in my life, controllable. I feel like I can live and breathe like everyone else.

Prioritizing Asthma Symptom Recognition

Josh’s story resonates with the broader issue of asthma normalization – the tendency of individuals living with asthma to adapt to their symptoms and accept uncontrolled asthma as their normal state. Studies reveal that patients often underestimate the severity of their asthma compared to objective tests, leading to a lack of self-advocacy for additional care.

Asthma Canada initiated the Red and Yellow Flags Campaign, to empower Canadians with asthma to recognize that their symptoms may indicate a more serious or uncontrolled condition. This campaign aims to break the cycle of normalization and encourage individuals to seek the necessary care, emphasizing the importance of taking chronic conditions seriously.

Asthma patients, like Josh, may inadvertently normalize signs of poor control, such as frequent breathing difficulties, missed obligations due to asthma, and increased reliance on reliever medications.

Lifestyle Management

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with asthma involves essential steps:

  • Seek a proper asthma diagnosis from a healthcare professional.
  • Adhere to prescribed asthma medications, including daily controller and reliever medications.
  • Avoid reliance on reliever inhalers – frequent use may indicate poorly controlled asthma.
  • Develop an Asthma Action Plan with your doctor and utilize tools like Peak Flow Meters for monitoring.
  • Identify and manage asthma triggers, working with healthcare providers for allergy symptoms.

Asthma in Numbers: A Call to Action

With 90 percent of hospital and emergency room visits being avoidable with proper asthma control, the call to action is clear – empower individuals like Josh to take charge of their health, encourage normalization, and live active, symptom-free lives.

Asthma Canada, a national, patient-driven charitable organization, has been an advocate for Canadians living with asthma for 50 years. By providing evidence-based information, education programs, and supporting asthma research, Asthma Canada aims to empower patients to live active, symptom-free lives.

With over 4 million Canadians living with asthma, Asthma Canada’s mission is to ensure they don’t have to compromise their daily activities or health. Asthma Canada offers the Asthma & Allergy HelpLine, staffed by Certified Respiratory Educators, providing advice and support at 1-866-787-4050 or [email protected].

Learn about Asthma Canada and our resources at

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