Kevin McCloud talks about new season of Grand Designs
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The beloved presenter looks right at home while donning a hard hat, yet the host has a hidden health condition – he suffers from chronic asthma. In fact, ironically the 62-year-old is borderline allergic to building sites. Due to his condition, the star has to take extra precautions when on site, avoiding shots where there are ceilings coming down or carpets being laid, as these could all trigger an asthma attack.
In 2019, the Office for National Statistics recorded that deaths from asthma attacks were the highest they have been in the last decade and have increased by more than 33 percent over the last 10 years.
Although the condition is common, it can prove to be deadly, and even worse there is no cure.
Talking to Asthma UK about when he first started noticing symptoms, Kevin said: “I was on a long coastal walk around the west coast of Scotland with a friend. As we climbed one particularly steep hill I started to really suffer – I just couldn’t breathe, I was wheezing and my chest was tight.
“My friend has asthma and gave me a puff of his inhaler. That’s when I knew that I should go to my GP and have some tests.”
After being diagnosed, Kevin had to quickly adjust and learn what his main “triggers” were, in order to avoid having another attack.
The star continued to say: “Although I often work on building sites, I have to be very careful not to put myself in situations where I’m breathing in the dust. I would be wheezing in no time and would hardly be in any fit state to film.
“I can usually feel dust if it’s around me. If I see any sign of a dust cloud then I move away from the immediate area – I go around the corner because I just can’t take the risk.
“I’ve had my fair share of colds which last longer than they should and I know they can cause wheezing so I avoid people who are sneezing like the plague and am scrupulous about hand-washing.”
Successfully avoiding asthma triggers however is only one part of the battle for Kevin. He went on to describe a time where he woke up “virtually every night for a couple of months” with the sensation that he was drowning.
He added: “I woke up virtually every night for a couple of months – panicking, having the sensation of drowning and not being able to take enough air into my lungs. I was still on the standard steroid inhaler and kept being told to simply keep taking more of the stuff.
“People often don’t realise that not getting enough oxygen into your lungs can also make you feel sleepy, dopey or downright exhausted.”
The NHS explains that the main symptoms of asthma include the following:
- A whistling sound when breathing (wheezing)
- A tight chest, which may feel like a band is tightening around it
When symptoms get dramatically worse, individuals can have an asthma attack, which in the UK, kills three people a day.
When an individual comes into contact with a certain “trigger”, the muscles around the walls of the airways become irritated and begin to tighten. Narrower and thinner airways quickly become inflamed and start to swell.
As well as this, sticky mucus or phlegm often builds up which can cause further narrowing of the airways.
Similar to symptoms of asthma, signs that you or someone close to you may be having an asthma attack include:
- Your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheezing or tight chest)
- Your reliever inhaler (usually blue) is not helping
- You’re too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
- Your breathing is getting faster and it feels like you cannot catch your breath
- Your peak flow score is lower than normal
- Children may also complain of a tummy or chest ache.
Often the condition is treated with an inhaler – a small device that lets you breathe in medicines. The two main types include a reliever inhaler and a preventer inhaler.
Reliever inhalers – used when needed to quickly relieve asthma symptoms for a short time
Preventer inhalers – used every day to prevent asthma symptoms happening.
After his diagnosis, Kevin was immediately put on an inhaler, but unfortunately this made “little difference” to his condition. In a bid to try and find a suitable and effective form of treatment, Kevin tried everything from nose drops to antihistamines.
It was not until he was prescribed strong steroids that he finally saw some results. “People say, ‘But steroids must be so bad for you’, to which I say, ‘Without them, I wouldn’t be here,’” Kevin said.
“Within three days I went from exhausted to superhuman. At my next visit I was prescribed a combined preventer and reliever steroid inhaler, which keeps my asthma much more under control.”
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