Kevin McCloud health: Grand Designs host – I would have been carried out in a box

Kevin McCloud discusses house building mistakes in 2017

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Kevin has always been into design and physical labour, so he is quite a home amongst rubble. However, what Grand Design viewers might not know is that he suffers from chronic asthma. A condition that affects the airways in your lungs, asthma can be extremely severe and cause permanent breathing difficulties.

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 NHS states the condition is common, there is no cure and when an unexpected attack strikes, it can be fatal.

Kevin first started noticing symptoms when he left university. He told Asthma UK: “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.”

Having an asthma diagnosis as an adult Kevin has had to quickly adjust to understanding his “triggers”, which is mainly dust.

He continued to say: “I can usually feel dust if it’s around me. I am careful as I must not put myself in situations where I’m breathing it in because I’d be wheezing in no time and would hardly be in any fit state to film.

“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.”

The NHS provide the main symptoms of asthma, which include the following:

  • A whistling sound when breathing (wheezing)
  • Breathlessness
  • A tight chest, which may feel like a band is tightening around it
  • Coughing.

When symptoms get dramatically worse this can lead to an asthma attack – which kill three people in the UK each day.

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.

When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways (an asthma trigger), the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell. Sometimes sticky mucus or phlegm builds up which can further narrow the airways.

These reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated – making it difficult to breathe and leading to symptoms of asthma.

Kevin, like most, has suffered from a variety of symptoms. He added: “Several years ago 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.”

Asthma is usually treated by using an inhaler, a small device that lets you breathe in medicines. The main types are:

  • Reliever inhalers – used when needed to quickly relieve asthma symptoms for a short time
  • Preventer inhalers – used every day to prevent asthma symptoms happening.

However, for some people like Kevin, inhalers fail to work, he even tried giving up alcohol as he thought the yeast may have been a trigger.

After being referred to John Costello – a gifted doctor Kevin was given super-strong steroids short-term. After using them for three days his energy and strength was back or even better than before.

He added: “If I had continued having these attacks because I wasn’t having the right treatment I would have been carried out in a box. I am incredibly grateful to Mr Costello. I went from exhausted to superhuman and felt so good.

“People say, ‘But steroids must be so bad for you’, to which I say: ‘Without them, I wouldn’t be here.’”

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