“Asthma is a part of me. I was diagnosed when I was very young and I’ve got blurry memories of being small and not being able to breathe. As a child, I was in hospital all the time.
WAKE UP CALL
“An asthma attack is scary, it almost paralyses you. When I was 21, I learned the hard way how serious it can be. I had a cold, which turned into a chest infection and I ended up in hospital with an asthma attack. I’d been very ill leading up to it, and because of work I kept putting off going to the GP. If only I’d listened to my body in the first place it wouldn’t have got so bad.
“It was a wakeup call and helped me get my focus back on my health. I smoked in the past – not my brightest idea – but I asked myself what am I doing, and not long after my attack I gave up.
“Now I like to stay in control – I use an asthma action plan and I have spare inhalers in my sports bag, work bag, and my bedroom. I used to skip my inhalers; now I know that good discipline and taking my preventer every day really helps me.
SPORT AND FITNESS
“My mum started me off on kick-boxing when I was about seven and at school I was a bit of a sporty type. My asthma did affect me though so I used my reliever when I got symptoms. My PE teachers supported me because they knew I was keen.
“As a young man starting out working, in a new job, I didn’t have so much time for exercise. But now I’ve gone back to kickboxing as an adult and I love it - I wish I’d carried it on during my teenage years. Kickboxing is high intensity at times but I know to stop and take my reliever inhaler if I need to.
“Exercise is one of my triggers, especially running. When I go running I make sure I’ve got my reliever with me, either in a pouch under my t-shirt or tucked into my sleeves. I also have a running band on my wrist which I can wear over my mouth and nose if it’s cold.
“I like a challenge. I did a Rat Race, which is a 20-mile obstacle course for charity – the training was tough but you’re motivated by helping others. Next year I’ll go for my black belt, and a half marathon – or two!
“To anyone with asthma who wants to start doing some exercise I’d say, ‘you can’. You need to start slowly and know your limits but you can do something. Don’t push too hard, be patient, and help your body adapt. Just stay in control of your symptoms and keep going.
“I work in garden clearance. I manage the pollen by wearing a good dust mask and I always carry anti-histamines. I also take my reliever inhaler before a big garden job just to be on the safe side.
“Usually I get symptoms due to changes in the weather so I keep an eye on the weather every day too. I’ve got an app on my phone, but the best thing is going by past experience - I know the kind of weather that affects me. The other day I saw it was raining in the morning and I guessed it would turn humid in the afternoon. This helps me stay prepared. I thought Asthma UK’s #Scarfie campaign was brilliant. I always wear a scarf over my nose and mouth in winter, it’s a habit since I was a kid, and I also wear layers so my chest keeps warm.
“I had an asthma attack at work recently. I’m quite an outgoing, physical person and my colleagues didn’t expect it. They knew I had asthma but they had no idea how bad it can get or what to do. It’s lucky I knew what was happening and what to do. I think more needs to be done to raise awareness so people know how to help their friends if they have an asthma attack.
“When someone at kickboxing had trouble breathing recently I helped her calm down and take her reliever. She was panicking. It was great to know how to help her.
“I try to tick all the boxes and keep healthy. Being a dad’s a good motivator - I want to be able to play football with my son and to be there for him. But I don’t beat myself up if I can’t do something one day; I just pick it up again the next.
“A good mental attitude helps me with my asthma. It can be stressful being a parent sometimes. I use meditation and breathing exercises to help stress and help me stay calm.”
“I think it also helps to be as fit and well as you can be so you’re not putting any extra stress on your body. The fitter I get the more I can deal with things, including my asthma.”