“Managing asthma is part of our family life”

Maria Brain explains how routine and preparation help her family manage their asthma together

VIDEO: Watch Maria and husband, Scott share their tips for coping with family life.

Asthma runs in the family

Maria and Scott Brain"My husband Scott started getting asthma symptoms - tightness in his chest, wheezing and coughing - a few years ago. He takes regular medication and his asthma is quite well managed.

"My daughter Emelia was given an inhaler when she was a year old, and, when she was two, they told us she's definitely got asthma. She's also got various life-threatening food allergies including milk, nuts and eggs. Her sister, Elisia, has just turned three and has recently been diagnosed with asthma as well."

Learning as we went along

"When Emelia was first given an inhaler the asthma nurse at the doctors surgery showed me how to use it with a spacer which has a baby mask. She's always been a placid child, so I'd cuddle her on my lap and we got used to it pretty quickly. As she got older, she learnt to take her inhaler with a bigger mask and then just a spacer. She's really good at using her inhaler with a spacer.

"What's really helped us is the Asthma UK childrens pack. When Emelia was two and a half we put the chart up on her bedroom wall. She loved writing Y or N to show whether she'd had any asthma symptoms and putting on a smiley face sticker when she'd had a good day. I think it helped her to understand the condition and to feel more in control, even from that young age. And it was really useful for us to take the chart to her six-monthly reviews at the asthma and allergy clinic in hospital so we could show the doctor when her symptoms had been worse or when she'd been using her inhaler more often."

Starting school

"Sending Emelia off to school was really hard because it meant that I wasn't in control of her condition any longer. In fact I was petrified. The school had an asthma policy and the school nurse did a care plan. We had several meetings before she started with the head teacher, school cook, class teacher and support teacher. I found the meetings very reassuring. Emelia keeps her inhaler and medicine for her other allergies in the classroom in her special medicine bag. One of the teachers is responsible for making sure that bag goes everywhere with her - to church and on school trips, for example."

A low point

"Lots of things set off Emelia's asthma symptoms, including tree pollen, cats, dogs, contact with foods she's allergic to and sometimes exercise, but I think the worst trigger for her is getting a chest infection. Last November she became really wheezy and the reliever inhaler even though I'd given her ten puffs, and then another ten, wasn't helping like it usually does. I called an ambulance. I was trying to stay calm but I felt really scared. Hearing your child ask, 'Mummy, am I going to die?' isn't something you forget in a hurry. Emelia was really poorly and they had to try all different kinds of medicines in hospital. But eventually she was able to breathe easily again and we came home after six or seven days."

A good routine

"As a family, taking asthma medicines is part of our normal routine. Emelia has a medicine basket in her bedroom where she keeps her inhalers. She needs to take two puffs of her preventer inhaler every morning and every evening along with her other medication. She knows the symptoms and comes and tells me if she needs to take her reliever inhaler. Elisia is also in a good routine. She just wants to do it right like her big sister."

A positive attitude

"What's really great is that Emelia loves to be active. She goes swimming, is in two different dance groups and is always on the trampoline. She can't remember not having asthma and allergies so doesn't know any different. It wouldn't occur to her to let it stop her doing everything she wants to do. As a family, we're always planning trips and outings. We go on amazing holidays. We're determined not to let asthma hold us back."

Parents talk to Asthma UK – Scott and Maria Brain

Scott and Maria Brain share their tips for coping with family life.

Video: Parents talk to Asthma UK – Scott and Maria Brain

Scott and Maria Brain share their tips for coping with family life.

Last updated August 2015