“I remember as a child telling my mum that I needed to have a big sigh to get the air out of my lungs, or that it felt like someone was poking me, but she didn’t understand. When the boys were younger and couldn’t explain their symptoms so well, they used to point at their chest or say it felt like something heavy was on top of them."
We’ve built up good home routines
“When we’re at home, I make sure that our inhalers are somewhere I can always see them – a shelf in the kitchen. And when we’re out I make sure the boys have the right inhaler and spacer to hand. My daughter’s baby bag has more stuff for the boys than for her!
“Zak’s going to senior school later this year so I’ve given him more responsibility to look after his own medicines. For the last couple of years I’ve waited to see if he remembers to take his inhaler before I tell him, and now he ends up reminding me! I’ve also set an alarm on my phone to remind me.
"Because pollen is a trigger, they have a repeat prescription for their hay fever medicines and we regularly check the pollen count. Although they can have soft toys in their room, they don’t have piles of them on the bed, so they’re not breathing in that dust. I know it’s impossible to get rid of dust mites but these little things seem to help the boys.”
Coping with coughing, wheezing and sleep
“Zane and I both wheeze sometimes – I can see his neck and stomach muscles straining, and hear a high-pitched noise, especially if I put my ear to his chest. When Zak has a cough, sucking on a lollipop is really useful – it calms and soothes him, and helps him concentrate on his breathing. And it makes the whole experience less scary.
“If I wake up at night and find myself listening for the boys’ coughing, I tell myself that without sleep I’ll be no good to them in the morning and that helps me to drop off. I have a baby monitor for my daughter Summer, 2, so I can hear the boys from my room, which is less disruptive to my sleep (and theirs) than constantly getting up in the night.”
Sharing Zak’s action plan gives us peace of mind
“Zak’s written asthma action plan gets updated any time his treatment changes. I make sure that the school and the boys’ dad have a copy too, so that we’re all working from the same guidelines. It’s got all the important information on it and I find it very helpful to make sure everyone is doing what they should be.
“In the past I found that the school didn’t seem to take asthma seriously – in a busy classroom it can go unnoticed until something dramatic happens, but the action plan gives me peace of mind."
Weighing up the pros and cons of steroids
“I was really against giving the boys steroid medicines at first – the last thing you want to do as a parent is to give them something that have side-effects – and I still find it hard, but I’ve come to accept it. They’ve both been through a lot over the last 8 or 9 years and I have seen the inhalers help them so much. And I understand now that the steroids in their inhalers are a highly-controlled drug, nothing to do with the ones used by bodybuilders."
A family journey
“I was 17 when I had Zak, and I often felt lost and overwhelmed, but I would say to any parent that you need to be forward and speak up to make sure your child has the support they need. Over the last two years Zak’s asthma has been really well controlled. I’ve seen him go from not being able to do anything to being an active boy who can do whatever he wants – he’s off on a five-day school trip soon, and I know the school has a plan in place to deal with any symptoms he has.”