One Puff at A Time My Asthma And Me

Getting your Ventolin out on a first date is a vibe killer

What is this guy up to.

Looks suspect.

At first glance our man looks to be mid-anecdote, re-enacting the details of some sordid night straight out of the Weinstein back catalogue to his mates. But probing deeper into Google’s stock photography sheds some light on the matter. Turns out Cardigan Jim’s impression is no more than a bit of coughing on account of an unexpected bout of asthma, which is being soothed below by a hit from his inhaler.

Asthma affects 350 million people worldwide, and five million in this country. Three people die every day from it in the UK, it afflicted those as far back as Ancient Egypt, and doctors are yet to find a cure apart from preventative medicines called corticosteroids. Also known as asthma pumps. With this in mind it’s something to be taken pretty seriously. 

Only, I can’t .

Because asthma is the lamest thing on the planet.


I’ve had asthma for as long as I can remember. I may even have been born with it. As much as one eventually gets used to ones disabilities, having asthma has always been a lingering source of embarrassment. Not because it’s something to be ashamed of, but because it’s so fucking lame.

Asthma is the quiet guy in the room with not much to say wearing the most annoying T-shirt you’ve ever seen. If I had grounds to hate him I might like him more, at least I could react to him. But this guy is harmless, and yet his tee makes me want to overdose on antihistamene.

Some people have such bad asthma it takes over their life. I can almost forget about mine, but can’t. It sits there like an unused sub, not serious enough to demand my respect, never quite bad enough for me to live in fear of an attack, but bad enough that if I find something a bit too funny it could bring on a wheezing fit and getting an inhaler out is going to kill the vibe. Bad enough that if forget my Ventolin on a night out I have to go home to get it.

There are three cool things about asthma.

1. Google’s stock photography.

2. The urban myth that hitting your Ventolin eight times in a row can get you high.

3. Vlad The Inhaler.

It makes you friends in the same way that not getting picked for football makes you friends. Imagine a survival of the fittest situation, how long would a group of asthmatics last in an apocalypse. Who are you guys. We’re the asthma crew. What does that mean. We all have asthma. Every one of you? Yes. Okay, stay here. We’ll come back for you.

Asthma ruined my childhood. When everyone was on the floor during sleepovers I had to stay in the bed because of dust mites in the carpet, I had to stay on the boat when everyone went scuba-diving, and when I was six I had it so badly my parents had to carry round a syringe encased in its own special box like the one out of The Rock, so when I had an attack they’d pin me to the floor face-down, pull down my shorts, and inject a steroid into my backside.

But above all I think my problem with asthma stems from the fact I am a man. And as far as I can tell, asthma is the antithesis of manliness. It is an evolutionary sign of weakness.

I read somewhere that women are attracted to symmetry of features, to smell, to genes they know instinctively will continue a strong healthy bloodline. Basically not asthma. My experience is that pulling out an asthma inhaler on a first date doesn’t usually get you a second. Imagine a situation when you’re with a girl you’ve always fancied, and shit starts kicking off. How much are you really going to assuage her fears by gripping her shoulder and being like hold my Ventolin, I’ll handle this.

I’d go into how having an asthma attack in bed is the least smooth thing in the world, but the Daily Express have written a whole article about it.

When you have an asthma attack in flagrante and don’t get rushed to hospital, there’s something about the moment when you’re sitting at the edge of the bed, wheezing between hits on your inhaler, as a girl stands next to you and rubs your back and pretends to be concerned while she tries to process how physically and mentally unturned on she is, that stays in your mind for a while.

People say our vulnerabilities are what make us cool. I once wrote something about depression and the response I got was incredible. People said it was brave, and vital, some told me stories of their own experience.

I have a feeling this admission of my own asthma won’t kickstart the same kind of dialogue. Being depressed has a peculiar gravitas, it has a depth and a darkness which elicits concern and respect. Being asthmatic does none of this. Asthma is Darwinism in its most brutal form. It is being lame in the original sense. Someone to be weeded out, genes to be extirpated en route to the übermensch.

The worst thing about asthma is that it’s so psychological, it’s actually psychosomatic. So writing a whole post about asthma, obliging myself to think about it for a period of time, has actually given me asthma. Right now I’m pretty wheezy. Nothing in the world is less cool than that.

So… what you get up to this afternoon?

I had a self-induced asthma attack.

Jesus, what were you doing?

Just sitting at my computer for a couple of hours, writing.

Fucking hell, what were you writing about?



My mother just fired me some confusing feedback, an opinion founded on the one hand on seven decades of life-experience from a female perspective, and on the other I feel somewhat blinkered by a mother’s love.

There’s a romantic vulnerable side to it which turns some women on.

Why does this make me feel even worse.