"I don't let asthma rule my life - or my children's"

Jayne Bettles and her two teenagers don't let asthma rule their lives.

"I think I was destined to have asthma because my dad's got it and a few family members on my mum's side have it. I was diagnosed at the age of four and can't remember my life without it."

Known triggers

"My known triggers are damp weather - if I get caught out in the rain the damp goes straight to my chest; anything furry even hamsters; and stress is a major trigger for me. I worked in a stressful office environment for six years and my symptoms were dreadful, yet since leaving that job I've been symptom-free."

Stopping symptoms in their tracks

"The first clue I have that my asthma symptoms are brewing is that I start to feel very tired or like I'm getting a cold. I'll do anything to stop my symptoms getting really bad because I hate steroid tablets - when I'm taking them I can't sleep properly, I put on weight and, as my husband will tell you, I get extremely irritable."

"The first thing I do to ward off symptoms is to slow down. It's taken me a long time to realise that I can't carry on as usual, that I have to listen to my body. I also increase my daily dose of preventer inhaler - for a couple of days I take two puffs a day instead of one puff. I've discussed this with my GP who knows me very well. He's happy for me to do it because it works for me and as long as I book in to see him straight away to review my symptoms and the medicines I'm taking. I see him every year for an annual asthma review anyway."

"And although I've said I hate taking steroid tablets, obviously I do take them if I need them to help me breathe. During one particularly bad period I took quite a high dose of steroids for about six weeks."

Diagnosing the children

"George was diagnosed with asthma when he was about 16 months old. He had a dreadful cough and was sick a lot. There's no test you can take to confirm it's asthma and we saw a few doctors who weren't sure. Then we went to see an asthma nurse and she picked it up straight away."

"It took us a long time to get George's symptoms under control. As a toddler he was having attacks and being rushed into hospital every couple of months. We saw different doctors until at last a consultant realised that he'd been using the wrong-sized spacer. He was four by this time and still using a spacer designed for a baby, which meant not enough medication was getting through to his lungs. After that his symptoms improved and by the time he was five, his asthma was well managed."

"My daughter Lena was also diagnosed with asthma when she was about four."

Helping George deal with a pollen allergy

"When George was still at junior school, his eyes became very itchy, his nose was constantly running every spring and I realised he had hay fever. For months every year he can't stop sneezing, feels completely bunged up and can't hear properly."

"Over the years George has tried liquid and tablet antihistamines both from the pharmacy and prescribed by the doctor to try to control the hay fever symptoms. But then a couple of months ago, our GP referred George for some allergy tests and we discovered he's allergic to dust, grass pollen, tree pollen, mould and dust mites. The doctor prescribed George a steroid nasal spray and this has dramatically helped to ease the hay fever symptoms."

"We don't follow the pollen count religiously, but if it's been a hot day and then it rains, and you get that funny smell from the rain, then all three of us me, George and Lena tend to feel a bit chesty. If a neighbour's cut the grass we might come indoors and close the windows for a bit and take an extra dose of antihistamine, but we try not to let anything stop us from living a normal life."

Family support

"I suppose the good thing about all three of us having the same diagnosis is that we all support each other. And my husband who doesn't have asthma understands so much about the condition."

"We don't ever forget to take our medication in our house - it's as natural as brushing our teeth. I've taught the children to leave their preventer inhalers on their bedside tables so they're visible before they go to bed and when they wake up. If you keep them downstairs or in a drawer, you're not reminded to take them when you see them and so you're more likely to forget."

"Both George and Lena are very good at remembering to take their medication. I think their motivation is that they really don't want to feel unwell and understand that it's the medication that helps them to stay well. Our attitude is that as long as we remember to take our reliever inhalers with us wherever we go, let's make sure asthma doesn't rule our lives."

Last updated August 2015