“I started Freshers’ Week with an asthma attack”

Student Charlotte’s University experiences encouraged her to campaign about asthma

Charlotte Duckett at University"Having an asthma attack on a Freshers’ Week night out was not how I planned to start my time studying music at the University of Leeds.

"Smoke machines trigger my asthma but back home in North Wales, nightclubs advertise if they’re using them. So, I went to a club in Leeds, assuming my asthma would be fine because they didn’t have a warning. However, I started to feel my lungs closing up almost immediately because there was a smoke machine.

"Luckily, I take my reliever inhaler with me everywhere, so I was OK. But my friend and I had to go straight home and the experience put me off clubbing."

Battling nightclub smoke machines

"Since then, I’ve started running a national campaign to get clubs to tell people if they’re going to use smoke machines. No one I’ve spoken to had realised that it was an issue before. I’ve raised awareness by giving interviews to the local newspaper, radio and student journalists.

"My biggest win was when I went to the National Union of Students Disabled Students Conference. Because of what I said, they’re going to create accessibility guidelines for unions – telling them that they should be advertising when their events have smoke!"

Raising asthma awareness on campus

"I’m open about my asthma – if I’m having a bad day, people know about it. But lots of other students aren’t. I know people who have needed their reliever in lectures, but have been too embarrassed to get it out. People don’t take them on nights out either, which worries me.

"So I’ve started talking about my lungs all the time. I’ve wrapped my inhaler in glittery stickers to make it a talking point, because I know that little thing keeps saving my life. I’m a Liberation Coordinator at my university too, which is all about making sure people with different conditions and disabilities are treated fairly – I talk about my asthma a lot as part of that."

Finding my niche at university

"The main thing I was worried about when I started university was not being able to sing. Not because asthma has ever got in the way of my singing – I used to be part of the National Youth Choir of Wales – but because it can make me ‘flakey’ sometimes. In fact, the singing itself helps my breath control.

"In an ideal world, I would be doing choir events every night. But, I have to be honest with myself and others about what my limits are. Luckily though, I’ve joined the opera society and my choir directors are happy for me to say exactly what I can and cannot do. If my asthma gets worse and I have to drop out last minute, that’s OK with them.

"University has been a new challenge for my asthma. But overall, it’s pushed me to take a stand for others and raise awareness. It can be hard, I do sometimes get unwell and having a new GP was difficult too. But, I’m managing to work around it.

"I keep taking my preventer inhaler and using my asthma action plan, because I won’t let asthma stop me doing my degree or singing. 

Last updated October 2017