Health: At top of their game – despite asthma

Leeds Rhinos' Kevin Sinfield.
Leeds Rhinos' Kevin Sinfield.
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It’s the most common long-term condition, but asthma needn’t rule your life. Katie Baldwin reports.

david beckham, Sir Ian Botham and Paula Radcliffe. As well as being among the UK’s most celebrated athletes, they also have something else in common.

These elite sportspeople all suffer from asthma – and they feature in a new dream sports team created by NHS bosses in Leeds.

The so-called Asthma Villa also includes local heroes like Leeds Rhinos star Kevin Sinfield and Olympian swimmer Adrian Moorhouse, as well as national footballers Frank Lampard and Robbie Fowler.

The team’s manager is former Manchester United legend Air Alex Ferguson, who has also suffered from the condition.

NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has created the line-up to show how careful self management means people can continue to lead normal, healthy lives.

Dr Mark Fuller, clinical lead for public health, said: “A lot of children who have asthma are surprised that some of their sporting heroes were in the same position when they were their age.

“Having asthma doesn’t stop you from doing exercise but patients need to be aware of the difference between being out of breathe and the symptoms of asthma.

“It’s important that people with asthma know the importance of self-care and that they continue to take their asthma medication. Before undertaking any form of exercise patients should ensure that they have spoken their GP and when exercising that they have their medication handy.”

Gil Ramsden, lead practice nurse at Leeds West CCG says that having asthma shouldn’t stop sufferers doing anything - as long as they make efforts to manage it well.

“People think ‘it’s asthma, everybody has got it’ - but it’s not the case. The whole purpose of good asthma control is that you don’t have symptoms.

“Good education and good understanding means that the right treatment prevents you from having symptoms and you can live your life symptom-free, as if you’ve not got asthma.”

She said it was crucial that people with the illness got an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible, so they could start treatment, and had a good understanding of asthma.

“The other thing people need to be aware of are their triggers,” she said.

This could be anything from pollen, nuts, other allergens or even emotions, she said, but it’s vital that patients know their own trigger so they can be prepared.

Gil said people need to know how their inhalers work, so they know when to take the medicine which relieves symptoms and the one which prevents them.

A common problem is sufferers not using their prevention inhaler enough, especially over the summer, which leads to a rise in people having problems with their asthma in September.

Or sufferers may find their inhaler is empty but be unable to get another one over a weekend if pharmacies are closed.

“It’s just about being organised, planning ahead and understanding that different medicines work in different ways,” she said.

This often comes after sufferers don’t control their asthma as well over summer, while students coming to university are another group who can see an increase in asthma problems.

It’s also important to remind them that if an asthma-sufferer does become very ill, an ambulance should be called.

“People don’t think that you can die from asthma these days, and there’s a reluctance to call ambulances,” Gil said.

“If you need an ambulance, you need one- especially if your medication isn’t working.”

But overall, the aim of the new campaign is to remind sufferers - especially youngsters - that having asthma doesn’t have to hold them back, even on the sports field.

“Just because you have got asthma, it shouldn’t stop you doing anything at all,” Gil added.

“As long as you are prepared, you have got your inhalers with you, it should not stop you doing what you want to do.”

Find out more, and see the full team line-up, visit the CCG’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nhsleedswestccg

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5.4m people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma – 1.1m children and 4.3m adults.

Asthma prevalence is thought to have plateaued since the 1990s, although the UK still has some of the highest rates in Europe.

There were 1,167 deaths from asthma in the UK in 2011.

An estimated 75 per cent of hospital admissions for asthma are avoidable and as many as 90 per cent of asthma deaths are preventable.

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