Asthma isn’t who we are, it isn’t a label that should define us. It shouldn’t say what we can and can’t do, nor should it put us in a box that we should be confined to in life. Just because we have asthma that doesn’t mean it we can’t be a marathon runner, or we can’t live our lives to the fullest. Someone can have asthma that severely affects their lives for 10 years, and then it can improve… One thing i’ve learned about asthma is that no matter how well we plan something, no matter how much we know or how many facts we have… asthma will always have it’s own plan.
We shouldn’t live our lives waiting on things to happen, we should live our lives to the fullest and make them happen. We have to accept things change, life happens. It is all about how we deal with what life throws at us that matters.
Asthma and Work/School/Uni
Asthma and Work:
Firstly, make sure that your employer is aware of your Asthma.
You don’t have to tell your employer about your asthma, but should you have an asthma attack whilst at work they won’t know how to help you and it can end up being a big paperwork issue after along with the fact that you are risking your health. Your employer may be more understanding for time off whether you are ill or for appointments if they know about your asthma. Try to explain how your Asthma affects you and what to do in an emergency. Just saying that you have asthma may be falling on deaf ears so to speak if it’s someone who doesn’t undertstand asthma, what it is and what it does as well as the fact it affects everyone differently. For example that office cough that has been going around may have someone off work for a day or so, for you that small cough has turned into a full on chest infection and 2 weeks off work. If you try to explain the basics to your asthma, where your inhalers are, what to do in an emergency etc. You are not only potentially reducing your risk of a fatal attack but you are hopefully gaining a more understanding boss knowing you have a long-term condition.
Secondly, are there any triggers in your work place?
You will need to address and deal with any work place triggers as best you can if you want to manage your asthma. If you can get rid of any triggers, not be exposed at all then great. However, life isn’t perfect and sometimes you can’t avoid a trigger. That doesn’t mean you can’t manage it and reduce your exposure. Every little helps. If you are have found some triggers in your work place then it is best to speak to your manager/ Human resources that you have asthma so that they can make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help protect you from triggers. So they will make as many changes as possible to help you work without having to deal with the triggers. For example, if there is a dusty area in your work place they may move you to a new area, clean that area, assign you a different roll or they may provide you with a mask to help. It may be that an air-freshener that’s used in the office sets you off, and they change it to another type or ban them. Don’t just put up with the triggers, the more you expose yourself the more it will effect you long term. Do your best to reduce as many triggers as possible.
Remember it’s in their best interest to have you fit and healthy too, so don’t feel like a burden by asking for some changes. I’m sure they’d rather a healthy employee who can work than someone off sick lots!
If you are finding there are severe triggers in your work, or you can’t avoid them – you may need to consider looking for another job. Yes this isn’t always ideal, but the alternative can be worse!
Thirdly, Tell your close colleges about your asthma
The ones that you work with regularly, or the ones who are near you at work and the ones you feel comfortable with…it’s worth them knowing about your asthma. They may be able to help you when you are having an attack or having a mild flare up and this may be able to help in preventing it going into a severe attack or getting worse. Knowing you are struggling and helping cover your work whilst you go and have a break to have your inhaler and a sit down for awhile. Knowing what to do in an emergency is underestimated, sometimes you aren’t able to communicate what to do and it can go from a mild attack to severe quickly. The quick response to your attack can be the difference between not only life and death but between a mild attack and going to hospital.
Fourth – Preparation!
Make sure that you always have your reliever inhaler handy and easy to access, usually kept close with your written action plan/emergency information. Tell your colleges where these are kept. Know who your first aiders are at work, and explain to them you have asthma and where your inhalers are kept.
If you have to take time off work because of your asthma, you can ‘self-certify’ that you’re unwell for up to one working week. This means all you need to do is tell your line-manager or Human Resources (HR) manager that you can’t come in.
If you are off work for longer than seven days then you will need to contact your GP to get a certificate.
When you’re off, it will help you feel less isolated and ease any worries you may have about taking time off and/or returning to work if you:
- keep in regular contact with your boss and/or colleagues
- ask to be kept up to date with what’s happening at work
- ask for reassurance that details about your illness or disability remain confidential, if that’s what you want.
When it’s time to return to work, your employer and GP can help you plan the best way to do it:
- Your GP can issue a ‘fit to work note’ which can suggest the employer allows an adjustment in hours or your role for a fixed length of time to allow you to get back to do some work.
- You and your employer you can decide what’s practical and do-able and create an agreed program for your return. For example, returning on a part-time basis could be a reasonable adjustment. And working from home is another option that may be worth discussing – even if it’s on a temporary basis until you’re fully recovered.
Discrimination at work
You may be worried that your employer can dimiss you because of your asthma. A termination of employment by an employer for whatever reason, in law, is a dismissal. Employers need to have considered what reasonable adjustments could be made to help your asthma and have taken steps to avoid needing to make a dismissal. If no further reasonable adjustments can be made which would allow you to perform well or to continue in your role, your employer has to consider moving you to a more suitable job as an alternative to dismissal.
If you think you’ve been discriminated against at work, or that you might have been turned down for a job or dismissed because of your asthma, you will need to seek legal advice. If you are in a union, you can get help from your union representative, or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
(asthma UK, 2016)
Asthma and University life:
While being at university can be fun and exciting, it can also be demanding and, like other students, there may be times when you find it difficult to cope with work deadlines. If your asthma is poorly managed or you’re having symptoms, you may not sleep properly, which may affect your concentration and your workload, and may have an impact on your experience of being a student. There may also be times when you have to take days off if your asthma symptoms flare up.
Here’s what to do:
- Speak to the college or university before you start your course. Explain your situation and the support you may need to help you make the most of your time at university.
- Get help from the university welfare support or student support services if you need it, to help with any aspect of university life.
- Struggling to meet deadlines because of your asthma? Lots of students have difficulties for all sorts of reasons, so you’re not alone. Tackle your worries head on by contacting your tutor and explaining the difficulties you’re having. They may be able to extend your deadlines and quickly ease your stress.
- Feelings of stress or anxiety can be a trigger for your asthma. Study can be stressful, especially around exam time. If you find it brings on asthma symptoms, speak to your GP or asthma nurse and the welfare officer at your uni to see what they can do to support you. Our schools page has lots of advice on asthma and exams which also applies to university.
- Around 80 per cent of people with asthma also have hay fever and find their asthma symptoms are triggered by pollen. This can make it difficult to cope with exams and work deadlines in the spring and summer. Managing both your hay fever and your asthma can help you concentrate on your studies and allow you to make the most of student life.
How I dealt with Uni/Work and my Asthma
I am currently studying for my degree in Health and Social care with Open Uni. I’m in my second year and unfortunately it did get to the point when i have had to defer my uni and hopefully I will be able to continue again come the next school year. However, whilst studing I made sure that the uni were aware of my health conditions so that i had the extra support if needed and if i needed extentions on assignments etc. This extra support just made things that less stressful for me. When I was trying to juggle my asthma and my uni without telling anyone and saying how much i was struggling I felt alone, like I couldn’t cope and the stress was overwhelming. Once I told them, they were amazing.
So my main advise is don’t hide it, knowing they are there if you need it and you don’t have to explain anything. Just being able to say to your tutor that your struggling and then them throwing all their support at you is such a nice feeling. You may not need extra support or help, but knowing it’s there if needed can just take away so many worries.
With regards to my work, I used to work as a community carer for the elderly/disabled. However, after being of sick more and more I eventually just decided I need to focus on my health. Paying bills should NEVER priorotise over my own health. When i was going back to work too soon, doing too much it lead to me being off sick more, in hospital more, and me being a really unreliable employee. I started by not informing my work, and just working through the bad days. I worked myself into the ground to the point where i had no choice but to have time off because i was in hospital. Then because i felt so guilty for being off work and pulling out last minute I then rushed back to work too soon. Starting to worry about money and bills etc.
I got into a bad cycle of going to work too soon, doing too much, going to hospital and then back again. So eventually I tried to adjust my work, make my hours less etc however my work just wasn’t suitable for my asthma or my health. There were no ‘light duties’ it was all or nothing. So eventually I came to the conclusion if I carried on then one day my trip to the hospital would be my last and only trip except me leaving in a black bag on a trolly.
So right now, I’m off sick and i’ve applied for benefits to help me. I’m going to focus all my time and energy on getting better and healthier so that when I go back to work i’m a reliable employee, and i’m working in a job and environment that suits me and my health needs. I’m going to make sure that i have a job thats flexible to my health needs and that i’m 100% ready to work. So for now it’s saving money, living off hardly any money, and focusing on my health because that is more important than paying bills. There is always a way of getting help in a financial situation, we just need to find it. Don’t feel like theres no other option, there is always another option. Don’t be affraid to ask for help.
It’s important to realise because you have asthma that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. You can do anything you are capable of. Asthma doesn’t determin that, your body does. Asthma can fluctuate so it’s important to remember just beacuse you may have struggled once, that doesn’t mean you can’t try again when your asthma is better. It is important to try and be as active as you can with asthma whilst not overdoing it. Knowing your limits to your asthma, and not pushing it. But being active and healthy is good for asthma, and so I encourage you to try and do as many active things as you can and be as healthy as you can beacuse good health and fitness will only benefit you in so many ways. mentally AND physically.
Many world-class athletes have asthma, including runners Paula Radcliffe and Jo Pavey, cyclists Laura Trott and Bradley Wiggins and footballers David Beckham and Paul Scholes. (asthma uk, 2016)
The key message is that as long as you’re looking after your asthma well, and your symptoms are under control, you can enjoy any type of exercise, whether you choose to go for a brisk walk every day, join an exercise class, or even sign up for a marathon. And by giving your lungs a regular workout you’ll also cut your risk of asthma symptoms. (Asthma UK, 2016)
REGULAR EXERCISE CAN HELP REDUCE ASTHMA SYMPTOMS BY:
- improving how well your lungs work so you have more stamina and get less breathless
- boosting your immune system so your asthma’s less likely to be triggered by coughs and colds
- supporting weight loss, which will cut your risk of symptoms and an asthma attack
- releasing ‘feel-good’ chemicals in your brain to lift your mood. Studies show that if you’re stressed or depressed you’re at higher risk of asthma symptoms as a result; staying happy and healthy really is good for your asthma. In a recent Asthma UK survey, 37 per cent of people with asthma told us exercising regularly makes them feel so much happier and healthier overall. (Asthma UK, 2016)
“I feel much better now that I’m fit, and I’ve noticed my reliever inhalers last a lot longer because I don’t need to use them as much.” – Colin Smith
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
Government guidelines say adults need to do 150 minutes of exercise a week. You might find it easier to think of this as 30 minutes a day for five days. You don’t need to do 30 minutes all in one go – if you want you could break it down into blocks of ten minutes.
Aim to be as active as you can every day. Even light activity is better for you than none at all, but to get the most benefits from exercise make sure you include activities that increase your heart rate.
Not done any exercise before or getting back into it after a break? You could start by:
- getting off the bus a few stops earlier to walk the rest of the way
- taking the stairs instead of the lift whenever you can
- leaving the car at home and walking instead
- fitting in a jog or a brisk walk around picking up the children from school
- walking the dog
- playing in the park with your children or grandchildren
- getting out in the garden.
The most important thing is to keep moving, at whatever level you can. Studies suggest that most of us spend far too much time sitting down at home, and at work. So if you do nothing else make sure you get up and move around as much as possible during the course of your day.
CHOOSING A TYPE OF EXERCISE THAT SUITS YOU
As long as your asthma is well managed there’s nothing to stop you having a go at pretty much any sport. But you’re much more likely to stick to a good exercise routine if you choose an activity you enjoy doing and that fits easily into your life. Have a think about whether you prefer a group activity, or to exercise alone and what time of day fits best with your schedule.
There are so many sports and activities to choose from it should be easy to find something that suits you, from swimming or walking to jogging and aerobics. And if you’re feeling really fit and well you could push yourself with more adventurous extreme sports.
Types of exercise
To get the most out of any exercise plan you need to include a combination of aerobic (either moderate intensity or vigorous intensity) and strengthening activities. It’s a good idea to include some stretching exercises too to improve flexibility.
Moderate intensity aerobic exercise includes activities such as walking, dancing, or cycling on level ground. Choose this if you want something quite easy-going which won’t leave you too out of breath.
Vigorous intensity aerobic exercises could be jogging, swimming or football. Choose this if you want to push your fitness levels a bit and get the most benefits for your overall health.
Strength training – also known as resistance training – builds and tones your muscles and includes using free weights or weight machines at the gym. Even carrying home the shopping counts towards a strengthening session!
Mind-body exercise, for example yoga, T’ai chi or Pilates, is a less intense form of strength training that improves flexibility, mobility in your joints and as an added bonus, can be great for clearing your mind.
ARE SOME TYPES OF EXERCISE MORE ASTHMA-FRIENDLY THAN OTHERS?
If your asthma’s well controlled and you’re feeling fit and well there’s no reason to limit your choice of exercise. But if your asthma’s not so good at the moment, you’re new to exercise or haven’t done any for a while you might find that moderate intensity aerobic activities suit you better.
You could try:
- Walking is a form of aerobic exercise that most of us can fit easily into our lives, and in an Asthma UK survey, 69 per cent of people with asthma told us they enjoy walking as a form of exercise. A pedometer is a small device that counts your steps; use one to see how many steps you achieve in a day. To up your count, opt to walk instead of using the car or public transport.
- Badminton or table tennis usually involve less running around than other racket sports like tennis or squash.
- Team sports such as cricket, netball or rounders give you time to rest in between bursts of activity.
- Swimming is a good all-round exercise, and can be particularly good for people with asthma. In fact, in an Asthma UK survey, 37 per cent of people with asthma told us they enjoy swimming regularly. If you’re thinking about starting swimming, just remember that chlorine used in pools can trigger some people’s asthma.
- Yoga, Pilates or T’ai chi – choose a beginner’s class which will allow you to go at your own pace.
If you haven’t been active for a while, take time to slowly build up your stamina.
Most people with asthma, as long as they’re taking their preventer medicines every day as prescribed, and they’re feeling well with their asthma, won’t have any problems exercising.
But some people with asthma feel anxious about exercising because it can make them feel breathless or even trigger asthma attacks.
If you’re holding off making a start because you’re worried about asthma symptoms talk it through with your GP or asthma nurse. They can check you’re on the right asthma medicines, taking your inhalers in the right way, and using an up-to-date written asthma action plan. They might be able to recommend suitable activities for you, based on your overall health and how your asthma’s been recently.
Exercise-induced asthma is a specific type of asthma that’s triggered just by exercise.
If you find that exercise often triggers your asthma it could be a sign that your asthma isn’t as well-controlled as it could be. See your GP or asthma nurse so you can update your written asthma action plan together, check your inhaler technique and review your asthma medicines. A regular asthma review can make a real difference to how well you manage your asthma triggers.
But if you find that exercise is your only trigger then it could mean that you have exercise-induced asthma.
Your GP or asthma nurse can help you work out whether or not you’ve got exercise-induced asthma. If you do it doesn’t mean you can’t exercise at all, but you’ll need extra help to manage asthma symptoms when you do exercise and advice on the right types of exercise/activity for you. Your GP might suggest you take your reliever inhaler before you exercise.
We’re all guilty of making plans and resolutions only to slip back into old habits after a while. These ideas can help you keep going so that exercise becomes part of everyday life and you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
- If you’ve got a diary or a calendar give yourself a tick every day you manage to do some exercise – even if it’s just a walk round the block. Seeing the ticks add up can be very motivating!
- Don’t give up if you miss a day or two, or need to skip a planned exercise session, just start up again the next day.
- Treat yourself; if you reach a particular goal or a personal best reward yourself with something you want – how about a new pair of trainers?
- Set yourself a challenge, such as or signing up for a charity fun run – our fundraising pages may inspire you! Or follow an exercise programme such as Couch to 5k.
- Recruit an exercise buddy – it can be easier to get up and out if you’ve got a friend to exercise with..
- Always have your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you. If you have asthma symptoms when you exercise, stop, take your reliever inhaler and make sure you wait for your symptoms to go before starting again.
- If it’s cold, wrap a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth to warm the air before it gets to your airways.
- If it’s really cold and you know that cold air triggers your asthma, it might be best to stick to indoor activities until the weather warms up again – why not try yoga, running on a treadmill, using a workout DVD at home, or even roller derby, like Team Wheezy (above)?
- If you know pollen is a trigger for your asthma, avoid exercising outside when the pollen count is high and make sure you’re taking the right medicines to treat your hay fever alongside your usual asthma medicines.
- Keep an eye on high pollution days so you can switch to indoor activities if possible. If you do need to exercise outdoors go out earlier in the day when the air quality is better, avoid main roads, and keep your workout short.
- Warm up before you start, with a walk or a jog to warm up your muscles and include some stretches before and after exercise to help with your flexibility and the range of movement in your joints.
- Tell people about your asthma, whether it’s your fitness instructor or your exercise buddy, so they can recognise your asthma symptoms and help you if they get worse.
- Make sure you have an up to date written asthma action plan so you know what to do if your asthma symptoms come on.
(Asthma UK, 2016)
How I deal with exercise and my severe asthma:
As you may be aware from reading about me through my blog or about me, I have severe asthma and right now my average day I can barely get up the stairs, I can’t walk more than 10-15 yards and even putting socks on can feel impossible. So how do I try to keep active? Especailly when most my time is in hospital?
I don’t underestimate the little things as being beneficial. Getting up to make a drink often, having a smaller cup so that i have to get up to top it up more often. Getting up to speak to someone in the house rather than speaking from one room to the next, breaking the day up so that a couple times i HAVE to go up stairs. My nebulizer machine is kept upstairs, i do have a spare portable and i make sure i keep my inhaler downstairs if i need it. However, my regular nebs and any extra ones i need I have to go upstairs for. This is very hard for me but i know if i keep persevering that it will eventually get easier and i know that when i have my neb i’m sat down for 20 mins after so plenty of time to recover.
I do know my limits and if i’m struggling and having a bad day i will just sit half way up the stairs and wait 5 mins whilst i catch my breath back. If i want to make a meal and i know i wont be able to stand i have a chair next to me in the kitchen that i can sit down when needed and continue to prepare things. The trick for me isn’t going for small walks but by just breaking up the time that i’m spent sat down or laying down.
When I’m feeling a bit better, the next step will be going out with my dogs on very very small walks, then slowly building on my walks with them. I make sure that even on a bad day and even if i’m in hospital i do as much as i can. Getting out of bed to redo my pillows or remake my bed a few times a day. taking my rubbish to the bin myself for a little walk. Getting out of bed and doing stretches to keep my muscles moving.
To a normal person a lot of those things aren’t classified as exercise, just every day things. To me they are just as hard as an exercise workout! So even if it’s the smallest task, try to do them as often as possible. Little and often can help you just keep going till your feeling better and can do more.
Sex and Relationships
“I worry about having an asthma attack on a date and drawing attention to myself.”
“Having sex makes me wheeze and cough which is really embarrassing, especially during the heat of the moment.”
“Yesterday I cancelled on my date because I was very short of breath. I often worry my asthma might put someone off.”
– Responses from Asthma and your love life survey.
In an Asthma UK survey, almost three-quarters of you told us you’ve felt embarrassed about using your inhaler on a date or romantic night out, while over half of you have been embarrassed by wheezing. Meanwhile, 42 per cent of you said you’d turned down a date or avoided sex because of worries about symptoms.
The good news is you can overcome these concerns and feel less self-conscious about your asthma when you’re dating or in a relationship.
The best way to avoid having to deal with symptoms on a date or a romantic evening is to make sure your asthma’s as well managed as possible. Putting just a few simple steps in place means you’re far less likely to have symptoms or need to use your reliever inhaler (usually blue) while you’re out, so you can relax and enjoy your date, feeling confident that asthma won’t affect you. (Asthma UK, 2016)
TACKLE INHALER EMBARRASSMENT
If you do have some symptoms on a date, it can help to remember that asthma is very common and it’s likely your date won’t think anything much of you using your inhaler. You probably feel far more conscious of it than they do, and most people have friends or relatives with asthma, so they may well be used to seeing someone use an inhaler. If you’d rather take your inhaler without them watching you, you could say you’re popping to the toilet to use it.
What’s important is that you don’t try to cope without your inhaler if you notice symptoms. Not using your inhaler means symptoms may get worse, which you may find more embarrassing – or may mean you have to cut the date short and go home early. You might even end up having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack – don’t risk having to look back and regret you let embarrassment get in the way. (Asthma UK, 2016)
Talking about asthma with a new partner
Just over 30 per cent of the people we surveyed tell a new partner about their asthma straight away. Most wait – either until they’ve been on a few dates, until they’re officially an item, or until the subject comes up naturally (for example, they have to use their inhaler in front of their new partner). You might delay telling a new partner because asthma is a normal part of your life and you don’t want to make a big fuss about it. You may simply not think about bringing it up until you need to. On the other hand, you may feel very worried about telling a new partner you have asthma, in case they are put off by it. (Asthma UK, 2016)
WHY BEING OPEN CAN BE HELPFUL
Ultimately, it’s a personal decision but here are some reasons it can be helpful to mention asthma early on:
- you’ll feel less self-conscious about using your reliever inhaler if you need to
- you can tell them how they can help if you have asthma symptoms – for example, if they know where your reliever inhaler is, they can find it quickly in an emergency
- you can be open about any asthma triggers you need to try to avoid – for example, wood-burning stoves, pollen, perfume or aftershave
- they will understand you’re not just making excuses if you can’t go out because of asthma symptoms – and you’ll feel less guilty if you have to cancel or postpone a date. (Asthma UK, 2016)
HOW TO BRING UP THE SUBJECT
When you tell your new partner or someone you’re dating that you have asthma, just keep it simple and matter-of-fact. You’ll probably find asthma will slip into conversation naturally at some point. For example, if you’re walking behind someone who’s smoking, you might say, “Can we pull back a bit? I have asthma and cigarette smoke can affect it.” Or, if you’re talking about exercise you enjoy, you could say, “I go cycling regularly – actually, it’s really helped my asthma.” (Asthma UK, 2016)
HOW TO DEAL WITH THEIR RESPONSE
The chances are the conversation may go no further at this stage. And you never know – a lot of people have asthma so you may well find out your new partner or date has it too. If they are concerned, you can reassure them – you could direct them to this website for more information. Explain that everyone’s asthma is different. You can tell them how asthma does – or doesn’t – affect your life, and say that you know how to manage your symptoms and what to do if they get worse.
Although it’s unlikely, there is the possibility that your new partner or the person you’re dating may not know what to do or say when you tell them you have asthma. If they are put off by it, remember this is more to do with them than you and most potential partners won’t be put off by your asthma. (Asthma UK, 2016)
Remember, a lot of people don’t actually understand what asthma is. They may have a misconception about what asthma is, they may think of a typical asthma symptom that is not typical for you. It’s important to try and give them the opportunity to understand. Give them a link to a website to read for example. Sometimes they may need time to really adjust and understand it. So just be open to different responses.
Get the most from your sex life
In a survey, over 68 per cent of you said asthma has directly got in the way of your sex life, and 46 per cent said you felt you’d be more confident sexually if you didn’t have asthma. While it’s true that sex can sometimes trigger asthma symptoms, there’s a lot you can do to help prevent this happening and manage symptoms if you do start having them.
Sex with a new partner can be nerve-wracking anyway, but you may have a few extra concerns because of your asthma. And even if you’ve been with someone for a while, you may still feel under pressure and worry that you won’t be able to enjoy yourself fully because of your asthma.
“When I get asthma symptoms my partner won’t be intimate until he’s satisfied I’m settled. Hardly surprising as the first time we had sex I had an asthma attack and ended up in hospital! I find my asthma more annoying than my partner does.” – Asthma and your love life survey respondent.
These three steps will help you to enjoy the moment and stop any worries spoiling your fun:
1. TALK TO YOUR PARTNER
Asthma may be the last thing you want to bring up in relation to sex. But if you think symptoms might get in the way in bed, being open about this will help you to relax a lot more. Simply saying you might need to use your reliever inhaler or you may need to change to a different position can really take the pressure off. Even if you’ve been seeing your partner for a while, it’s good to talk frankly about how asthma sometimes affects you during sex if you’ve never mentioned it before.
2. DON’T AVOID SEX
It can seem easiest to just avoid having sex in the first place. But that’s much more likely to affect your relationship than having to deal with any asthma symptoms that come up. Remember that the more you avoid something, the bigger your worries are likely to become.
3. SPEAK TO YOUR GP OR ASTHMA NURSE
Talk to your GP or asthma nurse about how your concerns are affecting your sex life. They will be able to reassure you, and give you practical advice to help you feel safer and more comfortable. Your GP or asthma nurse really will have heard it all before and will be pleased to give their support. You could also ring our confidential Asthma UK Helpline and speak to one of our friendly nurses.
“I always make sure my reliever inhaler is within reach as I often have to use it during sex. There are times when I also have to change position to lessen my wheezing. Sometimes I have to take breaks, which is incredibly frustrating as well.” – Asthma and your love life survey respondent.
Worried about being a burden in your relationship?
Just under 15 per cent of the people surveyed felt asthma had contributed to a relationship ending. In some cases, this was because a former partner had found their asthma too stressful, perhaps because they had severe asthma or because their condition was poorly managed. For others, the relationship ended because the person with asthma felt they were too much of a burden on their partner.
There are some easy steps you can take to make sure asthma isn’t the reason your relationship comes under strain.
- Doing all the right things to keep your asthma as well managed as possible will help reduce its impact on your relationship – and help ease your worries that it might be affecting your partner, so you can get on and enjoy time together.
- Share your worries with your partner. Keeping them to yourself can make them seem larger, and your partner will be able to reassure you. Together, you can come up with some practical ways to stop asthma getting in the way of the things you want to do together
- Encourage your partner to help you look after your asthma. There are lots of ways they can help you manage it – making it easier for you to stay on top of asthma symptoms and helping them to feel involved.
- Why not join an online community to get tips from others about managing asthma and relationships? (Asthma UK, 2016)
You may find asthma or other health problems to be daunting and taking over your life. You may find it’s affecting your mood and your view on life. Through my university and an assignement I discovered about Mindfullness and the 5 stepts to mental wellbeing and it was pretty much a huge change in my attitude when i finished the assignment after reading up on it. I can say that months later after putting it into practice that it really has worked and this is the best place i’ve been mentally in a very long time. So here it is:
Five steps to mental wellbeing
- Connect – connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships. Making that extra time to talk to an old friend, spending an extra bit of time to listen to their lives. Building up your relationships and making them stronger and better. These are the people that are going to be your support system, and the people to cheer you up when your having a bad day. Plus, being there for them and listening to them can help take away from our own issues.
- Be active – you don’t have to go to the gym. Take a walk, go cycling or play a game of football. Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your life. Get of a bus stop early, walk to the shop to get a loaf of bread, even just the little things add up and help.
- Keep learning – learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. So why not sign up for that cooking course, start learning to play a musical instrument, or figure out how to fix your bike? Keeping your mind distracted and focused on other things can be benefitial in SO many ways, i quite often use it as ways to keep me resting. When I get the bored and aggitated feeling when i know i need to be resting but want to do more than my body can allow. This kind of thing keeps my brain focused and my body will still be resting.
- Give to others – even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Getting onto a bus and giving up your seat, helping someone cross the road. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks. Giving back to others and helping others can be such a positive way of improving your mindset.
- Be mindful – be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges. Take note of the weather, don’t get stuck in your routines rushing through life. Stop, look at the sky. Appreciate the nice breeze that you can feel. Take time to think about the little things that usually you’d just skip passed in rushing through your life. (NHS, Mental wellbeing. 2016)
It’s important that you pay attention to your mental health as much as your phyiscal. Stay focused in life, keep positive. Stress and negativety is a waste of energy and time. It takes practice but it is possible to learn to just let things go more and focus on the bright side of things.
For most asthmatics it may just be a case of having a preventer (steroid) inhaler and having a rescue (bronchial dilator) inhaler. It’s important that even if your asthma is well managed and mostly or completely symptomless that you continue to take your preventer inhaler. If you don’t use your inhalers often, check they are not out of date and you’ve been for an asthma review to go over your medication.
For some asthma may need a little more to help keep it at bay and more manageable, it’s important to still make sure you have reviews with your doctor to go over your medication and make sure that you are on the right ones and at the right doses as asthma changes so much so what medication you are on now, it may change next month or in 6 months. It’s important that if your asthma isn’t in control or it’s getting wrose you see your doctor for review. Likewise if you feel your asthma has been improving and more symptomless, as you may be able to cut down on medication.
Another important aspect is organisation. Make sure you have spares, running out of an inhaler or a medication and your asthma getting worse becasue of it would be irresponsible. It can also add extra stress knowing you have run out or need something etc, why add that stress when just being organised and making sure you have what you need and don’t run out can take away that stress. For me i’m on lots of medication, so it can be chaotic and stressful if i’m not organised. So i have all my medication neatly organised in one place, I have pill boxes that i do all my daily medication into once a week that just takes away the daily stress of doing tablets. I only have to do it once a week. This also means that instead of having so much time spent each day doing my medication I can just get on with my day and just quickly stop, take my tablets and carry on. It’s easy for the amount of meds i’m on for it to take up a lot of my day and i can end up focusing on it too much. I like to try and limit the time i spend thinking about my asthma. The more I think about it the more it takes over my life. Being organised with my meds means i have more time for me. Less time dedicated to my asthma!
Good management of your asthma can mean the difference between frequent admissions and unstable poorly managed asthma that takes up most your day to day life. Being able to spot a decline early, being able to help doctors see clearly how well managed your asthma is so they can treat you to the best that they can is so helpful to being able to minimize asthma taking over your life. It takes me no more than a couple mins a day to fill in my asthma records and diaries, and those records and diaries can help the doctors and me so much. I can notice that the last 2/3 days i’ve been getting worse so i can do soemthing before it continues to decline, or instead of the doctor guessing at how bad i am or how controlled my asthma is, he can see clearly how managed my asthma is from the charts.
I can’t advocate enough to having an asthma diary and daily peak flows to managing your asthma. Having these charts and diaries can drastically reduce your risk of ending up in hospital because of your asthma, they can help you from declining so severely by picking things up sooner. They can get you the most effective treatment and management for your asthma and your doctor can get a clearer picture of what to do with you. Please see my Useful information page for some blank documents as an example of a simple asthma diary etc.
Keeping an up to date action plan is also very important, if it’s out of date it’s not going to be much use. So make sure you have it reviewed after every discharge and at least once a year. If your medication changes or you feel your asthma has changed it’s also time to get it checked. Action plans also reduce the risk of ending up in hospital and having a severe attacks, so for the sake of getting a check up every know and then to save a hospital admission and a severe attack that could be fatal… why not?
Family/Friends and Social Life
“It’s impossible to be spontaneous when your life revolves around medication.”
“When I’m planning an event or outing I have to take the location into account in case my asthma is triggered.”
“Severe asthma affects my confidence and has had a big impact on my social life.”
“I feel isolated and lonely when I miss out on social events because I’m in hospital.”
You may feel…
- bored and frustrated when you miss out on social events because of symptoms
- worried friends and family will give up on inviting you out because you often have to cancel
- sad that you can’t do what others can
- anxious about going out in case you have symptoms or even a potentially life-threatening asthma attack
- isolated if you can’t manage to see friends and family very often
- that it’s too much of an effort to go out, even on a good day.
Although you may need to stay in when you’re having lots of symptoms or if you’ve recently had an asthma attack, having severe asthma doesn’t have to mean missing out on social events altogether. Putting some easy steps in place can help you make the most of good days so you can enjoy time with friends and family. (asthma UK, 3016)
The best you can do is look after your asthma as well as possible, manage it to the best that you can. Then just try to adapt, you may not be up for hanging out with your friends but maybe they can come over instead. It’s just about adapting the things you do and knowing your limits. Take advantage of those good days, but know when your body is telling you that something is too much. Plan ahead for things, if there is an event or something you are looking forward to then try and rest before hand. Only do the most essential tasks and try to break them down into chunks so you don’t get too tired. (Asthma UK, 2016)
One of my biggest ways of dealing with how asthma has affected my relationships and social life is by being a part of an online community. Having other people who know how i’m feeling and what i’m going through. Being able to talk with them and make new friendships with people that understand my struggles helps me feel more confident and more positive about my asthma. Knowing i’m not the only one who is going through it and that others are having similar struggles. Getting advise on how to deal with situations etc.
It’s important to not let asthma take over our lives, you can’t ignore it or pretend it’s not there. You need to take it seriously, manage it and look after it. However, don’t let it define who we are or what we are capable of. Asthma is something we have, like brown hair or blue eyes. It doesn’t define our personalities or our capabilities. Asthma may be an up and down struggle, it may make one month seem impossible… It’s important to just manage it, deal with it, stay positive and continue on with our lives. Don’t ever stop living your lives because of asthma.
Asthma doesn’t deserve to control us, we need to control asthma! One day at a time. We will get there!
Asthma UK, 2016. Available from : https://www.asthma.org.uk [accessed 06/02/2017]
NHS – Mental Wellbeing, 2016. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/improve-mental-wellbeing.aspx [accessed 06/02/2017]