“I’m so proud of Alfie’s can-do attitude”

Helen Johns and her son Alfie, 16, say they’re working together to manage his asthma

“Asthma runs in our family. My dad had it and my husband has it. When Alfie started getting wheezy as a toddler at least we knew what we were dealing with. We’ve learned that his asthma symptoms are triggered by a change of weather and viral infections. He’s been in and out of hospital."

I felt more in control during the primary school years

"When Alfie first went to school, the class teacher had a reliever inhaler and there was a spare one in reception. They had a copy of his written asthma action plan. They encouraged him to join in PE.

Once Alfie moved up to secondary school, he had to take more responsibility for his asthma. I knew there was an emergency reliever inhaler in reception, but he had to carry his inhaler in his bag. Teenage boys aren’t very organised. Even now I’m always asking, ‘Have you got your inhaler, Alfie?’ As he’s getting older I try to worry less."

Having asthma can be tough

"I think the biggest challenge for Alfie has been how asthma sometimes affects his rugby. If he has to come off during a match because of his asthma, he feels like he’s letting his team down. His team won the county cup this year, though!

He has had to put up with so-called banter over the years and he’s been told to ‘man-up’. There can be a bit of a ‘you don’t look poorly, you’re not ill’ attitude. I find that hard but Alfie seems to cope with it really well."

Alfie doesn’t let his asthma stop him doing anything

"A lot of parents stop their child doing physical activity when they have asthma, but I’ve always encouraged Alfie to join in. He just needs to make sure he’s got his reliever inhaler and to learn the difference between being out of breath due to exercise and being out of breath due to asthma.

He’s been on several school trips, including skiing. He goes to parties. He’s pretty sensible for a teenager, really. I’m proud of his can-do attitude.

What puts my mind at rest is that he’s got a couple of friends who know to call 999 if he has an asthma attack. I do worry, but I’ve got to let him live his life."

The next couple of years will be interesting!

"Alfie has recently moved from the paediatric healthcare team to the adult team. We’ve been going to the hospital to see the new consultant every three months. He may only be 16, but he’s over six foot so he looks like an adult!

If all goes well, in two years Alfie will leave home to study engineering. At the moment he’s rubbish at remembering to take his medicines. I keep them in the kitchen and remind him twice a day. The next step is to help him become more responsible and organised.”

“Asthma doesn’t hold me back” Alfie, 16

“Having asthma is a bit strange because one minute you can be living normally and the next minute struggling to get air and wheezing. It can come on at any time. I’ve had it nearly all my life, though, so I can’t remember things being any different.

My friends are really supportive

"When I first went to secondary school, I don’t think anyone understood a thing about asthma. But then I missed quite a bit of school in year seven and it seemed to change the attitude. As people have got to know me they’ve realised asthma can be quite serious.

I have been teased, usually jokingly. I did find it quite hard but I’ve adjusted to it and it affects me less now I’m older.

My friends are supportive. We were playing football at lunchtime recently and I had an asthma attack. My friends made sure I had my inhaler, sat me up and got a first-aider. They also made everyone stop playing around me.

I’ve never been embarrassed to take my inhaler in front of people. Sometimes I would prefer not to take it, but that’s because I’d prefer not to have the hassle."

Having asthma doesn’t hold me back

I think my parents have instilled a positive attitude into me. I go cycling, I run, I play rugby at county level. I just need to make sure I always have my Ventolin inhaler.

I go to parties. I get tired quickly so I don’t like risking anything in case I can’t play rugby. I don’t miss out. All it means is I’ll come home at midnight instead of 2am."

Studying can be hard

"Because having asthma means I often need time off school, sometimes I feel like I’m at a disadvantage. When I go back, I have to work doubly hard to catch up. But I’m not giving up my engineering dream just because I’ve got asthma.

I sometimes get a bit wheezy during exam time, especially as I have hay fever. It doesn’t help if I get nervous. All I can do is take my antihistamine tablet and try to chill out."

Online advice has been helpful

"I’ve done a lot of research about asthma on the internet. The Asthma UK website has been really useful. I know it’s helped reassure my mum, especially when I’ve been unwell.

Because none of my friends have asthma that’s as bad as mine, it’s been helpful reading other people’s stories. I can feel a bit isolated sometimes. It’s nice to know there are people out there like me."

Last updated June 2017