“I study at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and won the under-18s section of the British Flute Society Competition in February 2016.
“I started playing the flute aged seven because my doctor said it might help my breathing. I have friends with asthma who play brass and woodwind instruments too, and we all look out for each other. If I hadn’t taken up music, I feel that my asthma would be much worse.
“At the beginning, like any new thing, it was difficult, but I’ve gradually improved over the years. I gradually built up the amount of time I spent playing and didn’t push myself too hard to begin with. I am constantly training my lungs, and I can feel the difference - I feel stronger and more sure of myself.”
A worrying time for my family
“I’ve been treated for asthma since I was four years old. I had a nasty night-time cough and a temperature for several days before I was admitted to Alder Hey hospital. I don’t remember much about it now but my parents and older brothers say it was very worrying. My mum always says I had a chest like an old woman – it sounded really rattly.
“My parents created a sticker chart so I could track what was setting my symptoms off. Running around at school used to make my chest burn and feel tight, and cold weather, chlorine in indoor swimming pools and my hay fever can set me off too. So during pollen season I take my hay fever medicines and keep the windows closed to stop pollen getting into my room.”
Now I’m prepared for anything
“I carry inhalers wherever I go – in my school blazer, my music bag, in the car, and spare ones at school – everywhere! My mum has asthma too so there’s always one nearby. I also use hand sanitiser to reduce the risk of picking up cold viruses when I’m at school or out shopping and it’s more difficult to wash my hands. It’s really convenient and I like it because it doesn’t feel ‘medical’ – it comes in lots of different varieties, and since I’ve been using it I get fewer coughs and colds.
“I make sure to take my preventer inhaler as soon as I get up and just before I go to bed, and the reliever 30-45 minutes before I play. It’s been my routine for so long now that it’s automatic. If I’m away from home, I also make sure that I have enough medicine to cover the time I’m away. I check that the reliever inhaler is in my blazer pocket before I go to school each day.
“If I forget to take my inhaler, I get more breathless, and I notice it in my playing too. I usually practise for a couple of hours a day, before school and in my lunch hour, but it can be even more if I have a competition or performance coming up. If my asthma symptoms are flaring up, I reduce my playing time to give myself time to recover.”
Music has changed my life
“My parents have always encouraged me – they’ve seen that music can take me so many places. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. As well as feeling so much better in my asthma control, music has given such a boost to my self-confidence. I’ve had lots of opportunities to perform in amazing places, and I get such a buzz from it. And all that performing means I feel more confident when I have to do presentations at school – it’s all great experience for the future.
“Music opens so many doors, and having asthma shouldn’t restrict you.”