Val, age 62, was diagnosed with asthma at 57 although looking back she now feels that she may have had it for a few years before that. She is white British and married with three adult step children. She is a self-employed researcher and lecturer. Val was surprised to find that asthma can start later in life, especially because she has always been very fit and healthy. She initially put her symptoms down to getting older.
Val is in her sixties and was diagnosed with asthma 6 years ago but suspects she has had it much longer. Val has always been very fit and she recalls instances before diagnosis when she was unexpectedly breathless. At the time she put this down to ageing, but now recognises that it was her asthma. She eventually sought medical help after a work colleague noticed her becoming breathless and suggested she saw her GP.
The GP organised a spirometry test to measure Val’s lung capacity and prescribed a reliever inhaler. Two weeks later she had a follow up appointment to discuss the results of the spirometry test. The GP showed her a graph which indicated she had severe breathing problems. She was then referred to a hospital consultant. The hospital consultant confirmed she had asthma, prescribed more inhalers and gave her advice on how to manage her asthma. Val was surprised to be diagnosed with asthma; firstly because she didn’t realise people could develop asthma as adults and secondly because she considered herself to be very fit and healthy.
Val now has yearly check-ups with her GP. She explains how her GP prescribes baseline medication as well as allowing her to take additional medication when she feels it’s needed. She also describes how her chemist provides useful advice about medication and its effects. She manages with her asthma by being aware of environments that may trigger breathing problems and always taking an inhaler to prevent an attack. She makes sure that she has reliever inhalers in all her coat pockets and handbags so she always has one to hand if needed. She stresses the importance of staying calm when having difficulties breathing because she believes panicking makes it worse. Val describes her asthma as being well controlled and she has never had an emergency attack.
There are certain lifestyle changes that Val has made since being diagnosed with asthma. She stopped swimming and mountain climbing. She can no longer do gardening because pollen aggravates her asthma. She has put laminate flooring in her home to prevent dust mites and avoids using cleaning products with chemicals. Val has taken all these adaptations in her stride and maintains a positive attitude.
Val’s husband has been very supportive and although sometime he worries, he always remains calm. She has also found support from online forums for people with asthma. She describes how discussing experiences with others has helped her to feel reassured. Val feels lucky that she has been prescribed effective medication and that she is able to control and stabilise her condition. She advises others who are experiencing breathing difficulties to seek medical help and not dismiss it as ageing like she did.