A dad-of-three with asthma has told how damp in his council house which went untreated for two years impacted his chest.
Paul Wilson, 48, who was diagnosed with asthma at just two years old, told how his condition was affected as a leading charity revealed a postcode lottery in lung related health.
The study, by the charity Asthma and Lung UK, revealed that Inverclyde and North Ayrshire are among the places with the highest rates of emergency hospital admissions and deaths for lung conditions in the UK.
Problems including the post-Covid pandemic pressures on the health care system and demands on social housing have been cited as reasons for lung disease challenges.
It said some of the biggest issues are in regions with high levels of deprivation and higher levels of air pollution.
Increased smoking rates in more deprived areas also play a role.
Mr Wilson, from Beith, said: “In my area of North Ayrshire, there is a lot of social housing and with this, there’s sometimes problems with damp and mould.
“I live in a council house, and we had damp for over two years because of an undiagnosed leaking pipe. There was a delay in the council looking at it because of Covid. I certainly felt that it affected my chest.
“Before then I hadn’t realised that damp and mould could affect lung conditions. Air pollution can adversely affect the health of people in low-income communities, showing the importance of Low Emission Zones. I believe growing up in Glasgow, air pollution made my asthma worse.”
North Ayrshire Council have been contacted for a response regarding Mr Wilson’s experience.
He shared how he suffered multiple asthma attacks over the years averaging around two a month.
However, following the birth of his youngest son 11 years ago, he decided to seek specialist help.
Mr Wilson, a student nurse, said: “I knew then that I had to seek proper help, take control and start to ask the right questions about how to prevent my asthma attacks, rather than just deal with them once they happened.
“I know now, with better care, I could have avoided all these hospital admissions. Other than a brief visit to the hospital when I got Covid, I haven’t been admitted to hospital once in 11 years which is great.”
Mr Wilson now has an asthma plan and inhaler check which is carried out annually.
He added: “I am also better at avoiding triggers – for example when I was a child, we used to have a cat, which wasn’t good for my asthma. I take all my vaccinations and am a lot more in touch with my GP practice. Because of my lived experience I wanted to become a nurse to help people with respiratory problems.”
Mr Wilson called for more targeted education for parents and in schools on the importance of lung health.
He said: “Asthma can be very serious, and people maybe aren’t aware of that. By the time they visit a health professional it can be too late.
“Confidence to ask informed questions from your GP or nurse is also very important.
“Problems in areas with high mental health problems and poverty can lead to higher smoking rates.
“To access help too, you often need to fill out forms which isn’t great if certain areas have lower than average literacy rates for example. There’s no one reason why I think lung health in my community is worse than others.”
Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma and Lung UK, said: “It’s appalling that people across the UK are struggling to breathe, are being rushed to hospital in an emergency and that so many are dying avoidably from their lung conditions.
“We know that people in more deprived areas are more likely to have worse lung health, often with no choice but to live in poorer quality housing, and more polluted areas, with higher smoking rates. We need to tackle the lung health lottery head on.
“Governments must ensure people living with a lung condition get an early diagnosis, have help quitting smoking, can breathe good quality air and receive the right support and treatment to manage their lung condition well.”