When Lewis was diagnosed with asthma at the age of two, I knew very little about the condition. Although I was diagnosed with asthma myself aged twenty three, completely out of nowhere whilst pregnant with Lewis, I naively treated it more as a nuisance than a condition. And actually, asthma can be incredibly dangerous and even deadly.
Asthma is explained as “a respiratory condition marked by attacks of spasm in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. It is usually connected to allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity” and, as Lewis grew I soon realised that it would impact him, and all our lives, quite heavily over the years.
At the age of four when Lewis suffered his first asthma attack and was hospitalised, it really hit me just serious this was. To see my baby gasping for air, too weak to even lift his head from the pillow, his lips going blue despite copious amounts of oxygen being pumped into his lungs, that moment terrified me and, even worse, it was just the start of a series of attacks over the years.
At thirteen years old I thought that we had reached a point where Lewis’s asthma was relatively under control, having gone almost a year since his last course of steroids and hospital admission. Over Christmas, with the usual Winter bugs, he began to suffer with his breathing to the point where he was struggling to walk more than a few steps without coughing or needing to use his blue inhaler. After several courses of steroids he did start to improve, and yet we have been left in a situation where his inhalers are no longer doing their job and he is constantly struggling to function “as normal” due to his asthma.
LloydsPharmacy recently commissioned a survey amongst 1000 adults, who either have asthma or care for a child who lives with asthma, which showed that 43% of people caring for a child with asthma say there could be more information available about the condition. Over 34% say there should be more lifestyle advice for managing a child’s asthma, 31% say they fear their child will develop further serious conditions as a result of their asthma, and 38% felt worried about how to manage their child’s asthma and how to stop them from having an asthma attack when they were first diagnosed. Interestingly, 31% say their child cannot take part in the sports and exercise they enjoy as a result of their asthma.
And I relate to every single one of these worries.
Because now, at fourteen, I am incredibly aware of how asthma is affecting Lewis’s life, his love of sport and every day exercise. I am aware of the constant wheeze with every breath, the night time cough that keeps him awake, and the dark shadows beneath his eyes. And with his inhalers clearly not working as well as they should, and our own GP’s reluctance to address that, when we were invited down to trial the Asthma Support Service, I realised we needed all the help we could get!
On arriving at our local LloydsPharmacy we were greeted by a professional and friendly pharmacist who showed us to a private room. She asked us a series of questions about Lewis’s medical record, his history of asthma, details of his medication and what we were hoping to gain from the appointment. The pharmacist explained that they offer an inhaler check where the child’s inhaler technique is checked to ensure they are being used correctly. With Lewis living with asthma for twelve years, we agreed that the check was un-necessary as he had plenty of experience under his belt!
Even so, the pharmacist was able to give some really great advice that, despite twelve years of experience, we were still unaware of. She recommended that, instead of taking his brown inhaler before he went to sleep, Lewis took the inhaler straight after his evening meal so to allow the steroid to open up his lungs well in advance of going to bed. She also recommended washing his mouth out with water after taking the brown inhaler to prevent a dry throat, which was aggravating Lewis’s wheeze, and to rinse any residue steroid from his mouth.
She also told us that despite the recommended dose of blue inhaler being up to 4 puffs 8 times a day, Lewis could infect take 4-8 puffs 8 times a day. This made a lot of sense as often Lewis had 4 puffs of his inhaler with no noticeable relief.
Lastly she told us that she would personally write to our doctor to recommend that Lewis’s brown inhaler is assessed with the possibility of switching to an alternative steroid. We agreed that his inhaler were not working as they should for him and persevering was showing no improvement.
We were given an Asthma Support Pack containing support leaflets from Asthma UK to help parents manage their child’s asthma when they’re at home, away from an expert. The leaflets provide useful websites, information on how allergies affect asthma, an asthma attack recovery plan and services to help support both Lewis and I.
The pharmacist told us that she would see us again once Lewis had his new inhalers from our GP and gave us her contact details to make that appointment when we were ready. Within 24 hours I had a phone call from our GP’s receptionist to say that they had received the letter and offered us an appointment in two weeks time to assess his symptoms and medication. Having spent the last few months banging out head against a brick wall with our GP, I was hugely grateful to LloydsPharmacy for acting as the middle man.
I am hopeful that, armed with the information we received from LloydsPharmacy, and with Lewis’s medication being changed accordingly, we will be able to take control of his asthma and see an improvement in the coming months. With children aged 12+ being offered an Asthma Control Test to help the pharmacist determine how well you have managed their asthma medicines during the past four weeks, I feel reassured that should we struggle with Lewis’s new medication there will be help and advice available.
We were so impressed with the Asthma Support Service provided and I would recommend it to all parents of children with asthma. You can find out more about the services offered over at www.lloydspharmacy.com/en/info/respiratory-support-service.