A TEENAGER who ended up in hospital due to the severity of his asthma has now taken up speed skating – because of a breath test which "transformed his life".
Jack Bates was diagnosed with a rare form of the condition when he was eight years old and had to go to A&E, after years of unexplained chest infections and coughs.
The 13-year-old was referred to a specialist at the Derbyshire Children's Hospital, who tried a machine which checks the breath and gives a reading on how inflamed the airways are.
The Fractional exhaled Nitric Oxide (FeNO) tests were able to help doctors determine how often Jack, of Mayfield Road, Ashbourne, needs his inhaler.
As a result, he has been able to take up sports and now joins his brother, Harry, for sessions with Ashbourne's speed-skating club.
The tests have just been recommended for use within the NHS by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence – but Derbyshire Children's Hospital said it had already been carrying them out for a number of years.
Jack's mum, Julie, 39, said: "He is a typical teenager and he thinks that, if he is feeling okay, he doesn't have to use his inhaler.
"Now he is 13, he is responsible for taking it – but we were finding he wasn't.
"When we went to see Dr Will Carroll at the hospital, he said he had this wonderful new machine which would show whether he was taking his medicine.
"He got me to breathe into it to show a normal reading and, when Jack did, his reading was very high. Jack was shocked – we all were.
"I think he didn't really understand why he had to keep taking his inhalers – but this showed him."
Julie said, because of his asthma, Jack thought he was no good at sport. She said: "He struggled to keep up but it was really his lungs that couldn't cope with sport.
"Now they can and he is gaining in confidence. He goes to speed skating with Harry and is enjoying it."
Jack was first diagnosed with asthma after Julie took him to the A&E department with a "nasty cough which just wouldn't budge".
She said his oxygen levels had became very low and it later turned out he had pneumonia.
Julie, husband Anthony, 51, and son Harry, nine, do not have asthma. Julie said: "Jack had a history of chest infections as a small child and was always given antibiotics but we never thought it could be asthma.
"When he had a cold, it would go onto his chest and he would have a nasty cough. But he was never wheezy. It was also heightened in summer with his hay fever.
"My sister and my husband's sister both have asthma, but not this type."
The breath test suggested by Dr Carroll measures FeNO. Patients with asthma have higher levels of this than other people.
Jack was given an incentive to use his inhaler – a trip to the shops. He agreed to focus on taking his medication every day to bring the reading down for his next appointment with Dr Carroll.
Julie said: "Jack understood he had a target to work to and he did it."
Jack's medication has now been tailored for him so he has two puffs on two inhalers each morning and night. He will return to see Dr Carroll every six months.
Dr Carroll, who has been carrying out the FeNO breath tests for about a year, said: "We have had to rely on charitable donations previously and I hope the NICE announcement will ensure funding is freed up for this important equipment."