Seretide- Drugs in Sport!

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I’ve been trying to figure out what might be wrong with me for a while (no, not mentally). Whenever I run up a hill, there comes a point at which my whole body gives up and I start gasping and heaving. Yeah, OK smartarse, you think this is normal- but I’m famous within the club for sounding like a freight train when running. Do you know 100 people who can tell when you’re behind them just from the sound of your desperate breaths? I do.

I’ve spoken to coaches, doctors etc and nobody could tell me why I suffer so much when compared to others in my age, weight and fitness range. The problem is that most people think you’re either unfit or simply whinging and looking for a quick fix. Almost nobody accepts that there is a real problem, and no one takes it seriously…….

Then one night I got to the top of a hill, and while I was begging the oxygen Gods to gift me with gas a voice behind me said ‘I used to be like that!’

A couple of hundred metres later (when I could talk again) I was speaking with a new club member, who told me that she had suffered with breathing issues and had been prescribed Seretide for her lungs, and now she had ‘Olympic lungs!’. Sure enough, she’s a great runner. And maybe, just maybe I had an answer to that question that had been bugging me for 4 years.

Decision time. I had to sit down and ask myself

1. Do you want this? You may have to take it every day forever
2. Do you want it because it will help you to run faster?
3. Or do you want it so you can be normal?

Truly I wasn’t convinced that I wanted it, but I knew the answer to the other questions. I’ve not had a bad asthma attack since I was a teenager but I do get EIA- exercise induced asthma, and anything to control that would be a good thing. Do I want it because I want to be the next Lance Armstrong? Nope- I don’t have much competitive drive in running. I do it because of the people, not to win. I WOULD like to be the best I can be without drugs, but I’d also like to be normal. Have a normal VO2 Max, normal lung function, I don’t need or want to compete with the big boys.

I can run ok on the flat, I’m also ok on downhill. I’ve worked my arse off (literally) to get the fitness I currently have, but the big hole in my ability is in climbing hills. It would be so nice to make the top of a hill without thinking I’m going to bust a valve…….

So I went to a local medical centre, spoke to whoever was on duty, and she flat out refused to even consider giving me the drug. Why? Well, I managed to get fit without dying, and Ventolin adequately controls my EIA so I’m shit outta luck. She described to me the 4 stages of asthma control- Ventolin is stage 1 and Seretide is stage 3, so I needed to be a lot more needy to qualify.

Interestingly she did not give me a peak flow test, but I suppose that might be a bit redundant since I’m now reasonably fit. It’s kind of ironic that all this work I’ve done could somehow have disqualified me from getting a drug that would help!

Now I could ‘game the system’ by getting a script online, but I’m content to let a health professional decide what I should and should not do. Maybe one day I will care enough to seek out a sports doctor to discuss, but right now the answer is going to stay ‘no’. Also I’m not keen to use my body as a pincushion like this cyclist.

But here’s the bottom line- I’m deeply happy that I seem to have found an answer to an old problem. In a lot of ways that’s nearly as good as being prescribed the cure. I wasn’t sure I wanted to take a steroid drug for the rest of my life, so I don’t have to make that decision.

It would have been nice to find out if that truly was the answer, but for now I will try to figure out if it’s better to train without Ventolin and race with it, or if I should both train and race with it. If you know please tell me!

UPDATE- After posting this on FaceBook, I had a bunch of responses that added a lot more information and perhaps will allow me to express myself a bit better. Here’s a summary (names removed)-

– I didn’t express this very well. I haven’t had a genuine (non EIA) asthma attack for years, but I was a very sick child. I probably would not have survived childhood if not for Ventolin. I’ve been training without Ventolin and would have a few puffs before a race to stop the tightness in my chest. The doctor who advised against Seretide suggested I should use Ventolin whenever I like and definitely use it during training. I have had it before a couple of training runs but it seems to be losing its effectiveness, or perhaps I am becoming habituated to it, which I really don’t want. When I was a kid using the powdered version I would get immediate relief, not so much now- are the dosages smaller than 30 years ago? Don’t know. Last night I forgot to have Ventolin before a pretty tough session and I was gasping all over the place, it was quite ugly- I was definitely WORSE than normal, but it was quite cold so that could have contributed. So in summary I have more work to do- I need to find out the best way to mange what is happening. I don’t qualify for Seretide which is fine, but managing what is happening with the Ventolin is not working well.

Bottom line- I’m not managing my symptoms very well, and need to develop a better plan

Comments from others- There are a lot more people with asthma than I might have guessed, it was great to get some feedback from them. One brave soul admitted that climbing hills might not have been an asthma problem but an anxiety issue which perhaps could be addressed with cognitive therapy. Very interesting.

A couple of people described the feeling that I have been getting and absolutely nailed it. So it does look like I am finally getting closer to some answers- thank you contributors!

Two people suggested Buteyko therapy which is a training method for breathing said to help asthmatics. I doubt that I’ll be able to do this though because ‘Strictly nasal breathing during physical exercise is another key element of the Buteyko method’. The scientific evidence on this that there is no demonstrable benefit, however someone I very much respect said he had seen it work on someone with quite bad asthma, will investigate. The Wikipedia article also mentioned that this method is good for controlling anxiety and may reduce the number and severity of asthma attacks by reducing stress.

Of those that said they had been prescribed Seretide, almost all said that they did not take it as directed- the fact sheet for the drug says that it is a preventative and thus should be taken every day. And yet most users try not to use it this way because of the side effects of the steroid preparation.