“I ignored my symptoms for as long as I could”

Jemma Rix, 24, had a scare when her childhood asthma flared up again as an adult

“When I was woken up in the middle of the night by my first asthma attack in years, I couldn’t believe it. I was incredibly embarrassed and shocked – I refused to even wake my flatmates up because I didn’t want to cause a fuss. But ending up in hospital was really scary and I knew that I didn’t want to go through it again.

“I grew up in the Norfolk countryside and, whilst I’ve always had asthma, it was very mild – and for a while, I foolishly thought it had gone completely. It wasn’t until I moved to London a couple of years ago I noticed my symptoms getting worse – I felt breathless and wheezy, and my chest was tight.  I ignored my symptoms for as long as I could, until the asthma attack that made me take stock.

“Since then I’ve made taking my preventer inhaler part of my daily routine… get up, shower, get dressed, make-up on and take my inhaler. I keep my preventer inhaler right beside my bedroom mirror so I always notice it in the morning and at night time when I’m putting on or taking off my make-up. I’m human so of course I’ve forgotten to take it once or twice, but I can absolutely tell the difference in my symptoms when I’ve forgotten it and that acts as a sharp reminder to not forget again.”

Asthma is different every day

“On a good day I feel like I can carry on as usual, as long as I’ve taken my preventer inhaler. I keep fit and active and love working out so on a good day I wouldn’t think twice about heading to a boxing class or jumping on a spin bike. On a bad day it’s a different story. It’s tricky to carry on as usual when I’m wheezing and have a tight chest. I don’t want to attend a spin class, that’s for certain. It can be frustrating, but I’ve learned to take the highs with the lows.Jemma Rix

Air pollution is definitely a trigger for me. To reduce the effect I just make sure to avoid certain areas of high pollution (like Oxford Street) when I’m not feeling well. It can be tricky but keeping an eye on the pollution forecast is useful too.”

I wish I’d been more prepared

“I’m sure the doctors told me when I was young that I’d always have asthma, but I feel like I was under the impression it would just lie dormant or vanish. As an adult I got completely caught up in London life and ignored symptoms that I now would notice. I wish I’d have taken asthma more seriously so that I would have been more prepared for an asthma attack.”

Friends and family help make life easier

“Following my asthma attack, I saw my GP every month for about four months, and kept a daily peak flow diary. Now that I’m using my preventer inhaler regularly, I see my GP every three months and take intermittent peak flow readings to make all is OK. I imagine this will go down to six-monthly and then annually once I’m fully back on track. I’ve found the best thing to do when meeting my GP is just to be completely honest and ask questions.

“My mum is constantly calling to ask about my asthma and to check I’m remembering my inhalers. Friends have been amazingly supportive and don’t expect me to trek into central London if I don’t feel 100 per cent. My employers are sensitive too - one colleague even let me use her inhaler when I’d foolishly swapped bags and left my reliever at home.”