A group of Teen Vogue editors took a challenge to better understand what it feels like to have asthma. The men and women participated in a simulation, known as the #AsthmaStrawChallenge, where they breathed in and out through a straw for 20 seconds to replicate the experience of having an asthma attack. None of the editors had the disease, so they wanted to take the challenge to better understand what living with asthma is like.
Asthma is a chronic disease inflaming the airways in the lungs, making it difficult for air to flow in and out. This swelling leads to coughing, shortness of breath, and/or chest tightness, among other symptoms. An estimated 1 in 12 Americans have asthma, and about half of those suffer from an asthma attack—a sudden flare-up of asthma symptoms—annually. Asthma attacks are often triggered by allergens, smoke, pollution, or changes in weather, and they can last anywhere from several minutes to a few days. Attacks can resolve spontaneously or can be treated with medication (usually through an inhaler).
Though the challenge only lasts for 20 seconds, the editors discovered that even that is hard. One editor likened the experience to breathing underwater, while another said it felt like losing steam on a run. “My heart started speeding up, and I could feel my muscles tensing,” another editor said. “I felt very out of control.”
The group characterized the overall simulation as scary, draining, and exhausting, but they welcomed readers to try the challenge out for themselves and share the results on social media.