Asthma and leaving home

Leaving home for the first time can be exciting, but there are things you need to consider when it comes to managing your asthma.

When you leave home you'll be in a completely different routine, which can make it harder to remember to use your inhalers. A new environment may mean you're exposed to more of your triggers, or to new triggers. Plus there are practical steps to remember for example, you'll need to register with a new GP. These simple tips will help you to manage your asthma so you can focus on enjoying your new life away from home.

On this page:

Before you move away

  • Speak to your GP or asthma nurse before leaving home about any concerns you have about your asthma. You can ask for a review of your asthma medicine and you can also ask the GP or asthma nurse to check your inhaler technique. That way, you can move away feeling confident your asthma's well managed so you can concentrate on making friends and getting to know your new area.
  • Make sure you have a written asthma action plan. Your GP or asthma nurse should complete this plan with you. It will contain the information you need to help you manage your asthma, including details about your asthma medicines, how to tell when your symptoms are getting worse and what you should do about this, and emergency information on what to do if you have an asthma attack. Download one today and make an appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse for a review. 
  • Check you have all the reliever and preventer medicine you need until you get registered with a new GP.

Find asthma-friendly accommodation

  • Consider your triggers if you're finding your own place to live. For example, if animals trigger your asthma, ask about whether there are any in the house, or whether there have been recently.
  • If you're moving into a flat or house share, it's important you get on with your new housemates. But you should also avoid moving in with housemates who smoke. Your asthma symptoms are likely to be triggered by other people's cigarette smoke.
  • Mould and damp can trigger asthma symptoms. When you're looking for a new place to live, watch out for signs such as black spots on the walls. Keeping your home well ventilated by opening windows, and avoiding drying clothes indoors can help reduce the chances of damp and mould. If you have constant mould or damp in your home, speak to your landlord, the local housing authority or, if you're in university accommodation, the housing officers.
  • If you're going to university, mention that you have asthma on your application form for accommodation. University accommodation officers can make sure you're given a room thats suitable for you for example, away from a main road if your asthma is triggered by air pollution.

Register with a new GP

  • Don't delay doing this when you have a long-term condition such as asthma, it's important to register with a new GP as soon as possible after you move. Strike it off your to-do list quickly so you can get on with the fun aspects of getting to know your new home.
  • NHS Choices can help you find a GP locally. When you're choosing a GP, it's worth asking whether the practice has a specialist asthma clinic. Other factors to consider may include how close the practice is, especially if you have difficulty travelling too far from your home.
  • If you're starting university, the uni may have its own medical services and asthma clinics and may have an asthma nurse, so ask at the health centre what services are available.

Moving house

  • Many things about moving can be stressful from having to pack and organise everything, to the upheaval of being in a new home, especially if it's the first time you've lived away from your family. Stress can be a trigger for asthma. In fact, 69 per cent of people with asthma tell us it makes their symptoms worse. Stress isn't the only emotion that can raise your risk other strong emotions, such as excitement, may also trigger symptoms. So be aware of this and make sure you're using your written asthma action plan to monitor your symptoms and check what to do if they seem to be getting worse.
  • Another potential trigger to be aware of during a move is dust. You might find that dust is disturbed when you're moving furniture around, and that this makes your symptoms worse. If possible, ask friends or relatives to move furniture in dusty areas for you. The most important way to lower your risk of reacting to this trigger, however, is to make sure you're taking your medicine as prescribed and following your written asthma action plan.
  • New carpets, furniture, shelving, flooring and bedding can give off a chemical called formaldehyde. Although there's little solid evidence it can trigger asthma symptoms, some people tell us the smell of new carpets and furniture can make their symptoms worse. If you think this applies to you, you could try searching out stylish second-hand furniture, or keep rooms well ventilated when you first take new furniture in.

Staying in a good routine

Moving out of home for the first time can mean you're in a different routine, which may make it harder to remember to use your inhalers as prescribed. You're in a new place, you may be doing things at different times and you might not have anyone around to remind you to take your medicines. Plus, some people feel self-conscious about using their inhalers in front of new people. All of this can mean you fall out of your usual routine with your inhalers. But remember, using your preventer inhaler exactly as your GP has prescribed is the best way of preventing a potentially life-threatening asthma attack, as well as preventing symptoms that might get in the way of you enjoying your new home. So try these tips to help you stay in a good routine:

  • Keep your preventer inhaler somewhere you will definitely see it and remember to use it, such as beside your toothbrush. Seeing it will prompt you to use it at the beginning and end of every day, so you won't have to think about it too much and can get on with doing the things you enjoy.
  • Use a medication reminder app on your smartphone, which will prompt you to take your inhaler. Or use your diary or calendar to write your own reminders.
  • Make a note of when you need to order a repeat prescription or make an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse. You can also use an app to remind you about prescriptions.
  • Speak to your GP, nurse or pharmacist if you keep forgetting to use your inhaler they may have suggestions to help.
  • Always carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you.
  • Worried about using your inhaler in front of new friends or flatmates? You can use your preventer inhaler discreetly, in the bathroom or your bedroom. The good news is that if you take this as directed, you're less likely to need to use your reliever inhaler in front of others when you're out and about. If you feel really self-conscious, you can ask your GP or asthma nurse if there's a more discreet device you can use. Remember that its very likely your new friends will know other people who use asthma inhalers and won't notice it anywhere near as much as you think they will.

Manage your asthma costs

When you're living away from your family for the first time, learning to manage your finances can be a challenge, whether you're at university or in a job. You may be entitled to help with prescription charges and other health costs if you're a student, unemployed or on a low income. Find out more on our finance page.

Going back home

When you go back to your family home for visits, bear these things in mind:

  • After you've moved, you'll no longer be registered with your former GP. If you need to see the doctor while visiting your family, you'll have to complete an NHS Temporary Services form, which you can get from the surgery. All your previous medical history before moving will be still with your family GP.
  • If there are pets in your family home, you can potentially become re-sensitised, which may trigger asthma symptoms. To reduce the risk of your triggers affecting you, make sure you're using your preventer inhaler as directed, if you have one.

Asthma at university

Most universities offer support to students who have a medical condition which can affect their study and life at university. Even if you don't consider yourself to be limited by your asthma, you may still need some extra support in higher education.

Asthma and your workload

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. Take the asthma attack risk checker to find out whether you're at risk during the pollen season, and learn how to take better care of your asthma and your hay fever so you can get on with getting more from university.

Asthma and your social life

Going to university or college is a great opportunity to make new friends and discover new hobbies and interests. Take these steps to reduce the chance of asthma impacting on your social life and spoiling your fun:

  • Tell new friends and fellow students that you have asthma. You could also let your housemates know where you keep you reliever inhaler, and what to do in an emergency keep a copy of your written asthma action plan on the fridge door.
  • Always take your reliever inhaler when you go out anywhere.
  • Avoid being around people who smoke. Breathing in someone else's smoke can trigger asthma symptoms. Staying away from smoke can help you avoid having symptoms so you can carry on enjoying yourself.
  • Don't start smoking yourself. If you smoke already, quitting is one of the most important things you can do to help your asthma. You'll notice fewer symptoms if you stop smoking and you'll have fewer days missing uni - not just the work side of it! Speak to your GP or asthma nurse about getting support to stop.
  • Make sure you're aware of how asthma symptoms can be triggered by recreational drugs and by alcohol.
  • Feeling down or isolated? Whatever the reasons, find out whether your university has a counselling service, or see your GP for help.

Asthma and dating

Sometimes asthma symptoms can make it tricky to enjoy going on dates and meeting new people. Almost three-quarters of people with asthma tell us they’ve felt embarrassed about using their inhaler on a date or a romantic night out, while 42 per cent say they’ve turned down a date or avoided sex because of worries about getting symptoms. The good news is, there are lots of simple things you can do to make sure your asthma doesn’t affect your love life. Take a look at our sex and relationships page to find out more.

Last updated August 2016

Next review due August 2019