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Last Updated: Monday, 4 October, 2004, 03:27 GMT 04:27 UK
Asthma holidays generate excitement
By Jane Elliott
BBC News Online health staff

Holiday
Children get a chance to bond
There are not many benefits to being an asthmatic.

But for just one week each year Jenny Newton-Smith, who has both severe asthma and eczema, feels there are some bonuses.

For every year since she was just six years old Jenny, who is now 17, has been on specially tailored asthmatics holidays.

And she loves them so much that this year, even though she was too old to go, she volunteered to help so as not to miss out.

Organised by the charity Peak, the holidays offer the chance for asthmatics to get a break with children their own age away from their families.

Staffed by specially trained volunteers, including nurses, the children can participate in the sporting activities that their condition often means they have to avoid for the rest of the year.

And Jenny said the holidays are a good chance for the children to bond and learn from each other.

"I have been going since I was six. It was a real confidence builder.

"I have asthma. I had it really badly as a child, although it is starting to get a bit better now and I have also got really bad eczema on my legs, which makes it a bit awkward when I do things like go swimming."

Friends

The holidays are the best thing about having asthma
Jenny Newton-Smith
She said the holidays offered a chance to make friends with people in the same boat - catering for asthmatics and asthmatics with eczema and serious food allergies.

"I had felt very isolated, but everyone there is very friendly and most of the people there are not going away with brothers and sisters, they are like you - on their own.

"But as well as being fun it is also informative they give you information about avoiding attacks, such as what to do if somebody is smoking around you.

"It was scary at first being away on your own, but I soon loved it and when my mum and dad came to pick me up I cried, because I didn't want to go home.

"It was so good all those people were like me. I did have a few friends with asthma, but none had asthma and eczema - here there were people like me who had both.

"My parents were a bit shaky at first about me going, but once I came back I could not stop going on about it and I just kept on about it I just went year after year.

"The holidays are the best thing about having asthma."

Respite

The breaks, which are run five times a year throughout the UK, are not only a holiday for the children.

Canoeing
Canoeing is one activity on the agenda
They also provide much needed respite in care for the parents who often get their first real period of relaxation in years.

One mother said she was delighted her son Richard had discovered the holidays.

"My son Richard has seen that his life does not have to be restricted by his asthma.

"He understands now why he needs to take his medication regularly and he has had the chance to meet other children in a similar position to him.

"He loves having the freedom of being away from home and having the chance to try new things. I'm sure he gets up to all sorts, but thanks to Peak volunteers we are confident that he is always safe and well."

Long-term benefit

Patrick Ladbury, the Children and Young People's development Manager at Asthma UK, which run the holidays, said they had generated much positive feedback from parents.

The transformations are incredible
Patrick Ladbury
"One said it was the first time in 13 years they had a break and had been able to do some cleaning and painting and DIY without having to worry about their child's condition flaring up.

"Parents do probably worry about their child when they are away, but they know that they are in a safe environment.

"The children return more confident and happy whilst their parents and carers feel relaxed and refreshed after their week off.

"The benefits of the knowledge that children gain about their asthma on Peak last long after the holiday ends. The transformations are incredible."

The charity ensures that medical staff and facilities are on hand if needed, and education activities and informal advice sessions take place during the holiday to help the children learn about their condition and how to manage it.

Each child is only limited to three holidays and after that they must go on a reserve list if they want to go back.

"Our aim is to give the children self-confidence and the ability to be away from home and their parents," said Mr Ladbury.

"We try to use centres with swimming pools so they can swim two or three times a week and do canoeing and things like quad-biking.

"It also gives the children a chance to meet others who are one the same regimes as them.

"The kids have a ball."




SEE ALSO:
'Asthma was ruining my life'
08 Sep 04  |  Health
Many face needless asthma misery
20 Jul 04  |  Health
Asthma
08 Jan 04  |  Medical notes


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