Having an inhaler to hand can literally be a lifesaver

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Friends and family released balloons on Portsdown Hill on what would have been Katie's 15th birthday on February 4

CHERYL GIBBS: Inspirational Katie touched the hearts of so many in her short life

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Beautiful Charlotte Beech should be celebrating her 21st birthday today.

But she died in 2009, aged just 15, her life cut short by an asthma attack.

Many people may think asthma makes you a bit wheezy. Or perhaps the thought of the condition conjures up images of fat kids who can’t run a bath, never mind run a race, without turning blue and keeling over.

But let’s ask Paula Radcliffe, the current women’s marathon world record holder and an asthmatic herself, what she thinks about whether people with asthma can do exercise.

Chronic asthma sufferers do need to be careful when they exercise, because anything that makes them breathless has the capacity to trigger an attack.

However, only five per cent of asthma sufferers are resistant to the medication that could help them lead as active a life as non-asthmatics.

It’s access to the right medicines that can help asthma sufferers – like me – do as much or as little as non-sufferers.

So when Charlotte’s dad Bob mentioned that Asthma UK’s four-year battle to have spare inhalers available in schools was almost won, I was very pleased.

I never go to the gym or for a run without my inhaler, just in case the pollen, pollution, exertion or pavement smokers cause an attack.

Last October I had to stop two miles into a half-marathon because someone with pungent deodorant or whatever ran past me, triggering an attack.

A bit of walking, a bit of inhaler and a lot of concentration on my breathing meant I could carry on.

But inhalers can be dropped, lost or broken, so having spare ones available in schools is vital. Attacks can escalate very quickly, so having a reliever to hand will literally be a lifesaver.

But why stop at schools? Why not gyms and swimming pools too? In fact, every first aid kit should have one.

Without the medical research funded by charities like Asthma UK, I’d probably be dead by now.

Those charities are working to find a cure, but in the meantime let’s prevent as many asthma-related deaths as we can, in memory of people like Charlotte.