Rare condition forced Florence Pugh to move out of UK, but what is tracheomalacia?

Florence Pugh. (Getty Images)
Florence Pugh's family were advised that living in a hotter country might help improve her health. (Getty Images)

Florence Pugh has opened up about a rare condition that forced her family to move from England to Spain when she was younger.

"We were in Spain because I have a breathing issue, and when I was younger they kind of just advised that a hotter climate would be better,” the actor, 26, said on Monday's episode of Running Wild With Bear Grylls on Monday.

“I have asthma and I have this thing called tracheomalacia as well. And so from a young age, I've just had a different breathing system.”

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It's reported Pugh and her family relocated in Sotogrande in Spain when she was aged three to help stabilise her health with the warmer weather, before moving back to Oxford in the UK when she was six.

Thankfully, she said that now as an adult, unless she gets ill, the condition doesn't affect her as intensely as it did when she was younger. And it certainly hasn't held her back from achieving success in her career.

But what might have the world-famous Pugh have had to overcome?

What is tracheomalacia?

Tracheomalacia is a weakness and floppiness in the main airway (called the trachea), according to information from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

While it is usually diagnosed at birth, it may also develop later on in life too.

In newborn babies with the condition, it often happens because the cartilage that should hold the airway 'relatively rigid and open' has not developed as it should, which can cause problems with breathing.

Generally, tracheomalacia from birth is is usually associated with abnormalities in the trachea, while tracheomalacia that develops after birth can be casued by trauma to the trachea, chronic tracheal infections, intubation that lasts too long or polychondritis (inflammation of the cartilage in the trachea).

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Tracheomalacia symptoms

Child testing for tracheomalacia. (Getty Images)
Seek medical help if you are worried you or child has tracheomalacia. (Getty Images)

Problems with breathing might might include:

  • wheezing

  • high-pitched breathing (medically called stridor)

  • coughing

  • respiratory tract infections

  • prolonged pauses in breathing (called dying spells)

These signs and symptoms are usually more severe if the baby is crying, feeding or coughing, according to NICE. Meanwhile, on the whole, some babies can be affected worse than others.

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Tracheomalacia treatments

As mild to moderate breathing problems usually improve over time, as the trachea grows and the cartilage strengthens, for these children suffering treatment might just be a case of humidified air, chest physiotherapy and medicine to control infections.

Oxygen may also be given, or in some cases a special mask to help deliver air when there's increase pressure to help with the difficulty of breathing (known as continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP).

But if symptoms are more extreme and the non-surgical treatments don't work, surgery may be needed, such as keyhole surgery (or thoracoscopic surgery) or aortopexy.

If you think you or your child has symptoms of tracheomalacia, make sure you contact your GP, especially before symptoms become more severe and there is more risk to health.

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