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Tony Hale Shares What Helps Him Breathe Easier After Lifelong Struggles with Asthma

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Tony Hale is known for his goofy roles on shows like Arrested Development and Veep, and as the voice of Forky in Toy Story 4, but the actor gets a bit more serious while discussing his lifelong struggles with asthma.

“I think growing up, my inhaler was pretty much my blankie,” Hale tells FIRST. “I wouldn’t go anywhere without it.” He also remembers traveling around Italy with his family as a kid while his dad was stationed there with the Army. “Someone said, ‘Where’s the Colosseum?’ and I thought, ‘Where’s the nearest hospital?’”

There’s clearly a constant focus and worry surrounding the simple act of breathing properly for asthma sufferers. Hale compares the feeling of an asthma attack to trying to breathe through a straw. “It’s very scary and [there’s] a lot of anxiety associated with it,” he says. But after a lifetime of dealing with the condition, Hale thought he was an expert on everything there was to know about managing his asthma… Until a recent blood test proved him wrong.

Like most people, Hale assumed it was only outside triggers that caused him to reach for his inhaler. Then he learned about eosinophilic asthma (or e-asthma), a condition where a high number of white blood cells known as eosinophils causes an asthma attack from the inside out.

“It’s not one size fits all. I didn’t know that, honestly,” the actor admits. “Come to find out, nearly seven out of 10 people who struggle with asthma have an elevated number of eosinophils that can be detected by a blood test.”

Tony Hale getting blood test for asthma
Tony Hale gives a thumbs up while getting his blood tested for e-asthma.Leisa Cole

That’s a pretty huge percentage of asthma sufferers who might not realize blood cells are also causing their breathing issues. That’s also why Hale is so excited to partner with AstraZeneca to get the word out about how asthma sufferers can check if their blood cells are part of the problem.

“I love directing people to this website, EAsthma.com, so they can get more information and get a free blood test,” Hale says. “Because it’s really stuff that I didn’t know and it’s helped me get a better personal approach for my own asthma.”

Here are a few signs listed on the website that could indicate you have this type of asthma:

  • Use your rescue inhaler to control asthma symptoms often
  • Wake up at night due to asthma symptoms
  • Take oral steroids like prednisone for your asthma
  • Have had asthma attacks that required emergency care

“Each person is so unique in their own asthma diagnosis. So to be able to get this blood test and work with their own personal doctor to get their own personal approach is key,” Hale explains. If a test confirms you have this type of asthma, you can work with your doctor to establish different treatment methods to keep this aspect of the condition in check.

“With everything going on in the world, I think the worst place to be in is uncertainty,” Hale adds. “[This test] takes that anxiety away because you feel like you’re a little more in the driver’s seat of your asthma.”

He also spoke with us about his upcoming series, which was supposed to start filming in April before the pandemic pushed everything back. The show is based on a young adult book series called The Mysterious Benedict Society and Hale assures us it is a lot more family-friendly than his previous role on HBO’s Veep. Hale will be playing the titular Benedict as well as the character’s “kind of evil” twin.

“The wild thing is [there’s] a parallel of this book series with what’s going on in our world,” Hale explains. “In the book, there’s all this negative messaging that’s happening around the world, just constant negative messaging, and Benedict is training these kids to kind of bring empathy back into the world. I just think nowadays, we’re just flooded with so much negative information, and what we need is empathy.” We’ll definitely be tuning in when the series is able to finally start filming!

In the meantime, be sure to check out EAsthma.com and share the information with anyone you know who suffers from asthma so they can discuss treatment plans with their doctors, too.

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