When you’re a parent it’s natural to worry about your child – from the odd scratch to a sudden dislike of their favourite food. But when your child has asthma, that’s another worry to add to the ever-growing list, and a more sinister one too. One minute your child could be playing with their friends and the next they’re fighting for their life. Unfortunately, I know this first-hand. In May 2015, my son Isaac, then eight, was sightseeing in Edinburgh with the family. I have pictures from the Saturday – he looks happy and healthy. But just 24 hours later my precious boy was hooked onto an oxygen mask. This could have been avoided if he’d taken a puff from his preventer inhaler twice a day.
All it takes is a slip in a routine to put your child’s life in danger. Which is why Asthma UK is reminding parents of children with asthma to be extra vigilant. New research shows that the numbers of children admitted to hospital in the UK doubles when they go back to school. Asthma UK says this is because children fall out of the routine of taking their inhaler in summer and are more susceptible to asthma triggers like cold and flu, rife when they go back to school. Isaac was just five when he was diagnosed with asthma after developing a persistent cough at night. He was given a brown preventer inhaler and a blue reliever inhaler, for on-the-spot relief.
Although the GP stressed the importance of taking the brown inhaler morning and night, I didn’t worry if we missed a few. I didn’t know then that the preventer inhaler is the most important inhaler, because it builds up protection over time so if someone comes across an asthma trigger they are less likely to have an asthma attack. Sometimes we’d be staying at a friend’s house, or he would fall asleep in the car and I didn’t want to wake him just to give him a puff. I was more worried about his blue reliever inhaler and made sure we had one everywhere we went.
But one day, Isaac, his younger brother and I spent the day showing his Auntie Fliss around Edinburgh, our hometown, touring the castle and Old Town. That night Isaac had a persistent cough and I woke him to give him two puffs of the blue inhaler. But, by morning, he was coughing, vomiting and gasping for breath. I started to panic.
I called the doctor and by the time I got Isaac to hospital he was struggling to walk and I had to carry him. At the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, he was given steroids, placed on oxygen and I was told he was having a severe asthma attack.
Isaac spent five nights in hospital before he was released. The episode uprooted the family – he missed a week of school; his younger brother Reuben was looked after by my mum and I took vigil by Isaac’s bedside. A common cold had triggered a life-threatening asthma attack.
We knew we needed to brush up on our knowledge of asthma and start taking it seriously so we printed out an Asthma Action Plan, available on the Asthma UK website, to record Isaac’s medication, symptoms of an asthma attack and what to do in an emergency. I’m now easily able to share this with family, friends and his school should the worst happen. Now we never miss a puff of his brown inhaler morning or night – we know it’s a pocket lifesaver.
I still have moments where I worry – as any mum would – but now I know we’ve done everything we can to manage his asthma. I won’t let a simple slip up like missed brown inhaler put him in hospital again.
You can get information on how to protect your child when they’re back in school this September.