What asthma feels like

I was 25 when I was diagnosed with asthma. I’d started running and found myself really struggling to breathe during and after my runs. I’d have to go to bed after running 5K as I was so short of breath.

I visited my GP. He asked me to do a peak flow test and I was told I had asthma with exercise being a main trigger. I was sent away with preventer and reliever pumps and a peak flow apparatus which I was to use daily and record my readings. 

I went back a few weeks later feeling much better and that was that. My asthma was well-controlled and apart from taking my inhalers daily, it rarely had an impact on my day-to-day life. I made sure I had my flu jab every autumn but for the most part it was just a little box I ticked on medical forms.

That all changed four years ago when I had my first chronic episode and needed steroid tablets. I couldn’t catch my breath, sustain conversations or do the most simple activities. My GP was thorough but perplexed. It took a few weeks, but we got there and got my symptoms under control.

Since then, I get these episodes a few times a year much to my complete frustration. I’m in the thick of one now. I’ve had a chest infection for weeks and am on my second round of antibiotics and steroid tablets, which affect my mood and make it really difficult to sleep. The steroids also mean I’m more susceptible to illness so I’m picking up colds along the way. I’ve also not been to my lovely gym for a few weeks as I know my chest couldn’t sustain my usual swims and classes. 

When I’m having problems with my asthma, every breath is hard and unfulfilling. It feels as though I can’t fully catch my breath. My ribs feel sore and it’s as though there are invisible hands contracting them every time I breathe. 

Today it meant I felt my strength and energy ebb as the day went on. I came home from work exhausted, but switched in to mum mode as I walked through the door. I gave the children their baths and read their bedtime stories even though every sentence hurt a little bit more than the last. 

And once they were safely asleep, I curled up on the sofa and spent the rest of the evening there unable to move or speak at length. 

One thing living with asthma has made me appreciate is how lucky I am to have the NHS. From the pharmacists who advise me to the GPs and nurses who help me, I feel very fortunate to be able to have the medicine I need, especially when my asthma is hard to control.

I hope that I will get my asthma under control again in the future. In the meantime, please excuse me if I’m more groggy and grumpy than usual.

Do you have asthma? How do you manage it and its impact on your life? I’d love to know.


Cold season – a parent’s perspective

I have a cold. Nothing surprising here as we’re in cold/flu/bug season, but having a cold or any kind of minor illness when you also have young children brings its challenges. 

You can’t phone in sick and hide under the duvet binge-watching Netflix and hugging a mug of Lemsip. Instead you will still be up at the crack of dawn answering an endless barrage of questions, laying out the school uniform and persuading the children that it really is a rather good idea to brush their teeth. 

There are still socks to wash, laundry to fold and a constant supply of meals, snacks and drinks to prepare.

The week before Christmas two years ago, we all got the flu. Full-blown “Will I ever feel better?” flu. It was a blurry week of Calpol, temperature-checking and paracetamol. While everyone else was tucked up and resting, I had no choice but to keep going as much as I could to look everyone. Luckily my mum was on hand to help us through that difficult week when it was hard to keep track of medicine lists and temperature logs as well as feeling dreadful.

Apart from feeling rotten, the thing I dislike most is how grumpy I am when I’m unwell. My patience is thinner and stretched more tightly. 

This morning I failed to see the funny side of my toddler’s Shakespearean meltdown over green and red apples (she couldn’t make up her mind which kind she wanted). And I was grouchy as anything when our son dropped his cereal on the floor, splattering the walls with cement-like Shreddies.

So I’ve admitted defeat and switched on Frozen. We’re currently cwtched up under a blanket before we head off to school and I go on to work.

Now where did I put that Lemsip?