Asthma Attack Chronicles


goonies-the-goonies-11496905-852-480Probably the most distress-inducing thing I’ve read about Venezuela in the last few months is stuck away between parenthesis in this MUD press release: Venezuela is now experiencing a shortage of bronchodilators – the key ingredient in inhalers for managing sudden asthma attacks.

Now, if you’ve never suffered a serious asthma attack, or dealt closely with someone who has, I don’t know if I can convey to you the sheer terror of facing such a thing without your inhaler. It can very easily kill you, in extreme cases, you literally cannot breathe without it.

I cannot imagine being the parent of a child with asthma and going from pharmacy to pharmacy being turned away because these just didn’t come through.

When you think about it, it’s a closed loop: there are no dollars left over to import bronchodilators. Why? Because we spent them. On what? On diesel and gasoline that we used to produce locally but now import and sell on basically for free to power an aging vehicle fleet that, in combusting them, produces the particulate pollution that gives people…asthma.


Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. Those you find, be prepared to pay some tenths of a salary for them.

    Ah, the incredible, terrible, almost beautiful loneliness and helplessness one feels in this “Socialist” country when one or a close relative faces a grave illness or condition and is without private insurance running into the millions of Bolivares Fuertes. It’s almost like being stranded on the Moon.
    Public hospitals? You go to DIE there. They have not improved a bit, quite the contrary.

    Then come the usual applauding seals singing “it’s gonna be all right, all right, yeah” because now there’s a piche ambulatorio on a God-forsaken place with aspirin and a Cuban sanitary technician, or some sort of lottery to travel to Cuba for treatment (for show!). I guess they go with the simple, brown people, simple remedies mantra.

    • You Oligarchs don’t realize that the access to aspirin and antibiotics has increased massively through barrio ardentro. Asthma is a fringe Oligarch disability and for a poor country like Venezuela it makes sense to increase access to common cheap treatments, not expensive things like inhalers.

      • We oligarchs might realize that there are God-forsaken places where you can have aspirin and antibiotics and even quinine courtesy of religious missions or relief agencies. Nobody involved, however, can stretch (or rather draws and quarters) imagination so far as to say that such availability equals having a healthcare system of ANY sort in place.

        • Asthma inhalers with salbutamol, is one o the cheapest things in the world because there are a lot of children with asthma and is not a bourgeois condition…and if you have an allergic component to dustmite ( it is all as it takes)… It is not a preventive medicine, is a RESCUE medicine, because it is use when you already cannot breathe ok…it help subside the swelling of the bronchi…of course if you have never been rushed to an Emergency after 7 adrenaline shots ( so you could respond to the treatment) well I understand that what is the problem to be dead in a few hours…

  2. Disturbing indeed, and it always seemed to me that quite a lot of Venezuelans suffered from asthma.Even today I have glowing stand out memories of 2 neighborhood children showing up in my house and asking for help, and my having to take them to the emergency room for asthma treatment…always because their mothers were not home and they had run out of inhalers.It was terrifying to me.My children did not suffer from asthma , so I never had any inhalers at home.

    The most horrifying aspect to this is that many children are left at home, alone to fend for themselves, and /or to take care of other siblings.

  3. The amount of burning that goes on, at least in rural areas, of garbage and vegetation, must contribute to a lot of respiratory problems. Especially this time of year.

  4. This is also true of many other drugs which people with certain chronic illnes need to use constantly and which cannot be obtained at all or only with great difficulty . Some one close to us suffers from an illness which requires one specific medication to avoid violent tremors . the medicine has now been unavailable FOR MORE THAN A YEAR and must be obtained from friendly visitors to other countries ( including colombia and europe) where it can be obtained easily and cheaply.

  5. Distressing, to say the least. Asthma has always been way too close to us, at age 46 my mother died of it, surrounded by ICU doctors unable to do anything. The sole idea of not being able to reach for the inhaler, or even to have to think twice about using it, is indeed terrifying.

  6. Wait till Venezuela experiences true hunger and malnurishment… If they keep going the way they are going now, it could well happen. Good thing a lot of people have mango trees in their backyards…

    When the Communists finally took over all of Vietnam, they set about collectivizing agriculture. This worked so poorly there, that Vietnam, a tropical country in which food grows practically without human intervention, experienced food shortages and true hunger for the first time in their history, prompting one commentator to remark that “Only the Communists could have figured out how to stop bananas and pineapples from growing.”

    • Roy – thanks for the information on Vietnam. Now what does this have to do with Venezuela? is it because both countries a wrutten with a “V”? Of are you predicting hambriuna on Venezuela – like that idiot Rafael Alonso did back in early 2003 when he was head of CAVIDEA.? I honestly though that you had more intelligence than to write such garbage. The fact is that the supermarkets are full of food but soome basic itaems have been difficult to find recently – far from a famine so stop maling yourself look and sound like a fucking imbecile!!!!!!

      • This post certainly illustrates the narcissistic vein running through Chavismo in general and the author’s “personality” specifically. Obviously, everybody else is either an idiot or an imbecile, or worse, except for his towering breadth & distinction. Way to overcompensate your stature, old boy!

      • Arturo you are so boring.
        What does it has to do with Venezuela you ask!, if you read truthfully and with intellectual honesty, you would be able to gather that the Roy clearly stated, the commonality to Vietnam ( pol pot days) and Venezuela (circa 2013), Communism.
        Got it now? dumm ass.

        • Luis,

          Thanks for jumping in. Not to appear ungrateful, but Pol Pot was the dictator of Cambodia, next door to Vietnam. Fortunately for the Vietnamese, their leaders leaders were more practical than idealistic, and they quickly realized that collective farming wasn’t going to work in Vietnam, and gave up the attempt after a couple of years. The Cambodians were not so lucky.

          Of course, Arturo will say that Chavismo isn’t anything like Communism, and he would be partially right, in that Chavismo has not attempted to abolish private property. Though, they have eroded the concept considerably. The real difference though is that Vietnam was traditionally self-sufficient in food production. Venezuela, through misguided economic policies and expropriations has allowed its private food production sector to be decimated. Venezuela is now importing somewhere between 70-80% of the total tonnage of food consumed. To say that this makes Venezuela vulnerable would be a gross understatement. The food pipeline keeps flowing, only so long as Venezuela has hard currency to pay for it.

          I may have been a little flippant in my response to Arturo (he does not bring out the best in me), but I can think of any number of scenarios in which Venezuela simply runs out of foreign currency reserves, and the food imports stop rather abruptly. The likelihood of any of those scenarios occurring is not high at the moment, but every day that the Government foolishly waits to devalue the currency increases the possibility of one of those scenarios happening. And remember, we don’t even know for sure what Venezuela’s reserves are. Quite a bit of it is gold that “repatriated”. Remember when PDVSA “discovered” that their pension fund was bankrupt? Without transparency, we really don’t know, but experience with Venezuela has taught me to expect the worst.

          • Point taken. I was thinking ho chi min and typed pol pot. Point being the same.
            I also agree with your fear scenario.

            These communists/ corrupts have embezzled the county dry, and the reckoning is not to be nice. Mind you, much worse to lack of food is the excess of hatred and resent.

  7. Roy – Old Soviet joke: What would happen if the Soviet Union annexed the Sahara Desert? After a few years, there would be an acute shortage of sand.

    • I can’t beging to imagine how expensive and inefficient that is. Just sending documents back and forth in an envelope to my mother-in-law to land her a visa to visit was murderous enough.

      Funny how you can overnight things somewhere, but be damned if you can get regular shipments of staple items. Supply-chain deficiencies in the extreme.

  8. It’s been a few months now that Listerine, an essential oral hygiene product, has been MIA. Likewise, the plethora of choices in different hygiene products of yesterday is fast giving way to no choice at all, ie, a poorly manufactured generic product that is a rude stopgap measure in cases of emergency only … Cubazuela, here we come.

  9. A cuban lady doctor who came to Venezuela because her husband, also a doctor, suffered from a disease which could be treated in Venezuela but not in Cuba, told a relative of ours who befriended her that the first time she stood at the doors of a venezuelan supermarked she…. broke into uncontrollable tears, seeing how much there was of everything , things she knew existed from magazine photos but had never actually seen . She told our relative that she continued to believe in Castro , she had never known any other political loyalty in her life and it was too late to change alligeances , but she couldnt help but be overwhelmed and the abundance of Venezuelan supermarkets having only known the sparse spartan half empty shelves of Cuban food shops.
    I couldnt help but reflect that where it not for our oil , the regime would have us Venezuelans, know the same misery and want that cubans live under.

  10. My brother and my wife suffer from asthma in various degrees, and I can tell you, it is quite horrifying to see someone gasping for air when one of those asthma attacks come kicking in.

    If I recall correctly, Venezuela has one of the highest incidences of asthma worldwide and, if my memory serves me well, in Coche island (near Margarita) there used to be a research facility for asthma. It is a combination of high humidity, pollution and, in the case of Caracas, allergies derived from the Capi Melao.

    And it is not only asthma medicines that are lacking. I have to take Glucophage on a daily basis to avoid developing diabetes and fatty liver, and that alone has been quite a challenge for the last 2 years. Ditto for Lipitor, which I also have to take daily. I guess my body is not meant for the Bolivarian Revolution 😛


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here