“I had hot flushes – and then I started coughing and getting breathless as well”

Jane Scaife’s asthma was triggered as she was approaching the menopause

“Up until two years ago, I didn’t ever have any breathing problems.

"I started getting typical menopausal symptoms about five years ago – hot flushes and swollen breasts, and my periods became more unpredictable. But I had female friends going through similar things, so I wasn’t worried."

At first I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma

"I’m a receptionist at a gym – I’m fit and active. I run three times a week and do circuit classes. But not very long after my menopausal symptoms started, I noticed that if I ran in cold weather I was getting quite wheezy. At first, I put it down to being out of breath from the exercise. But then after a spin class, I couldn’t stop coughing for about three hours and my chest was in agony.

"That happened three or four times and when I looked up the symptoms online, I thought I might have exercise-induced asthma.

"My GP agreed and gave me a prescription for a blue reliever inhaler. She showed me how to use it and told me to take two puffs before exercise and afterwards if I needed it. She also told me to wear a buff (a scarf for runners) over my mouth and nose when I was running to warm up the air before breathing it in."

And then the diagnosis changed to asthma

"For months I didn’t get any wheezing or coughing. Having exercise-induced asthma felt completely manageable.

"But during a cold snap last winter I started coughing and having to use my reliever inhaler a lot more – and sometimes not just after I’d been exercising. The airways in my chest constantly felt sore and achy.

"Then on a night out, I couldn’t stop coughing. It was so painful I was in tears. My reliever inhaler was in my sports bag and we came straight home so I could take it. I hadn’t been dancing or particularly active that evening, so it was obvious the pattern had changed.

"The next day, I called my GP surgery and they made me an appointment with the asthma nurse. She confirmed I had asthma, not exercise-induced asthma, and prescribed me a preventer inhaler to take twice a day.

"It was only then that I thought I’d better start taking the condition seriously. I looked on Asthma UK’s website for information and came across a page that explains how asthma can develop during times of hormonal change. I'm sure it’s not a coincidence that my asthma symptoms started when I was approaching the menopause – and my GP says there could be a link."

It’s been a learning curve!

"When I first started taking my preventer inhaler I got a throat infection. It was so painful – like swallowing glass. My GP recommended rinsing after using my preventer inhaler – it’s now part of my routine and I haven’t had a problem since.

"I keep my preventer inhaler on the worktop in the kitchen - as the mother of 11 and 13-year-old sons, that’s basically where I live! Seeing it there reminds me to take it.

"I now have three blue reliever inhalers: I keep one in my swim bag, one in my sports bag and one in my handbag. So I know, wherever I go, that I can ward off asthma symptoms if they come on.

"I’m continuing to exercise a lot – staying fit helps my asthma. I’m training for an ultra-marathon to celebrate my 50th birthday later this year. It was a shock to be diagnosed with asthma in my late 40s, but now I’m taking the right medication, I don’t think having asthma is going to stop me doing anything.”

Last updated June 2017