Being diagnosed with asthma earlier this year was really hard for me. I knew that something was wrong with my chest and had been for a few months, after I had been very ill in September 2019 and then again in early February of this year. I was finding harder to manage things that hadn’t been a problem before and had some symptoms that were worrying.
My mum took me to the doctor and after she listened to my chest, and examined me, and heard what I had to say, told me that I had developed asthma and she prescribed me medication to help make me feel better and more able to cope.
I was expecting her to say I had asthma and so was my mum, so it wasn’t much of a surprise, and I was relieved to have a proper diagnosis and some things to help me. The doctor said that children who live in London who are exposed to more pollution are more likely to develop asthma and also I struggle with eczema and hayfever, which makes it more likely that it could be an issue for me.
Symtoms of asthma for me are:
A tight chest, it feels like I can’t get a full breath, and it feels like I have to try really hard to get a breath in. My chest also sounds creaky and squeaky. This mostly happens after I have done a lot of exercises or have a cold or am not well. We have also noticed that pollen and dust make me worse. I feel slightly dizzy and a bit light-headed and my pulse changes.
I feel very tired and yawn a lot. The doctor says this is because my body is trying to get more oxygen, and it’s something we now know is a sign I might be struggling a bit.
When I am really struggling I find it very hard to breathe, and sometimes this makes me very anxious which makes me feel worse and it’s hard to get things under control. Sometimes these attacks come out of the blue but mostly they happen if I have a really bad cold or a cold coming on, and my body is fighting the cold off and my asthma is triggered.
Sport has gotten harder for me, and even my PE teacher thought that something was wrong and that things had got worse for me particularly recently. I have also felt very tired and not right a lot.
I have got used to looking after myself and taking the medications I need to help make my lungs cope better and to prevent the attacks and also monitoring my peak flow to see how I am doing. Sometimes my mum has to nag me to, but I mostly do it myself.
The hardest bit about asthma is anxiety. Anxiety attacks and asthma can be similar in that you feel you can’t breathe and that’s hard. Sometimes for me, it can be hard for me to calm down when I am struggling to breathe and I need my mum to help me. I take reliever medication a certain way to deal with an asthma attack and if it doesn’t get better than I have to go to the hospital to be seen and have a nebulizer and stronger medication to help me. My mum is very good at helping me through and we are getting much better at recognizing an attack before it gets really bad and managing things.
Unfortunately, my doctor thinks the link between asthma and eczema is likley for me so I have had to make some changes to my diet to help stop my eczema flares as well. This means I can’t eat dairy products at the moment, including cheese, and if you know me well, then you will know this has made me very very sad. One day I hope I will be able to enjoy it, but for now, my mum makes me eat vegan cheese, which I really really don’t like.
My advice if you think you have asthma is to see your doctor as soon as possible, to get checked out, and if you are diagnosed you need to take your medications and stick to your asthma plan and have regular check-ups to make sure your medicine is working. An asthma plan is important. We have one for me, that tells me and people who know me what to do, what medicines I have to take, and how much and what to do if I need emergency help. I also wear a medical alert necklace as well to let people know. I carry my reliever inhaler all the time in case I need it to help me if I have an asthma attack. You should not stop taking your asthma medicine unless a doctor tells you, as this could make you at risk of a bad attack which could be dangerous.
It can be hard to have asthma but I have been told and am learning that if you look after yourself you can manage normal life. I am finding things like dance classes and exercise less challenging now I am taking medication to help my lungs and it’s less scary when I feel my chest is getting tight because we know what helps. We are also working on avoiding the things that trigger my asthma (although mum says I still have to do PE because exercise is actually a good thing to keep your body fit when you have asthma) and now we know it feels like I can cope better.
Asthma UK has some good advice, asthma care plans, and help on their site and I also have to go and see an Asthma nurse at a clinic every few months to check my peak flow and how my lungs are doing. I don’t “like” having asthma but I am learning to live with it, and not let it stop me from getting on with life.
*Emily had a very bad chest infection in the autumn of 2019, she needed a lot of medication to help her recover properly. She was ill again in February and we became concerned that something wasn’t right. She was seen by our GP and at an asthma clinic and diagnosed with late-onset childhood asthma, and we don’t know at this point if she will grow out of it, or if she will have to live with it for life. We don’t know why she has asthma but it is linked to allergies which were not surprising for us and she has struggled with bronchitis, chest infections, and other issues so we were not entirely surprised. Managing her symptoms and helping her to make sure she takes her medications and looks after herself are key and if she becomes really unwell we have to act fast. Now we know, we can handle it better. We have had a few scary moments where I have been hovering over 999 on my phone, but we are learning how to not let asthma win. She has been very brave and coped well. Please always get medical advice if you think your child may be struggling with asthma, it’s better to know and be able to treat and manage it*