If your asthma feels like another stress to deal with, it can become a barrier to looking after yourself.
Not looking after your asthma may mean you get asthma symptoms which can drag you down and make it harder to make the most of time with your friends and family, or make it more difficult to cope at school or at work.
Dealing with your asthma will help you take on new schools, exams, learning to drive, starting work, going to college, dating, leaving home or anything else you want to do – and stop your friends and family worrying about you.
“Some recent research suggested young people whose asthma interferes with their lives are less likely to fulfil their potential at school, uni or even in their careers but it’s in your power to stop that happening,” says Asthma UK nurse Caroline.
“It’s really important for you to know just how serious asthma can be, but also that you can cut your risk of an asthma attack with some simple steps,” says nurse Caroline.
Asthma attacks kill three people a day in the UK. “But by using the six steps below you should cut your risk of an asthma attack as well as dealing with the symptoms that will drain your energy,” says nurse Caroline.
1. Remember to take your medicines as prescribed, even if you feel well
- Try linking doing this to something else you do every day. So, if you need to take your preventer inhaler every day (or regularly) as prescribed, maybe keep it on your bedside table so you see it when you go to bed and when you wake up. Or you could set a reminder on your phone, or stick a note by your toothbrush.
- Always carry your blue reliever inhaler. Many asthma triggers such as pollen, pollution and smoke are unpredictable. Having your blue reliever inhaler with you can help you to control annoying symptoms and prevent them from developing into an asthma attack. Get into the habit of checking that your inhaler is in your bag or pocket, just like you’d make sure you’ve got your keys or travel pass. Then you won’t have to feel stressed or anxious if your symptoms do come on.
- Get friends and family to help you – ask them to remind you until you get into the habit, so it just feels like part of your everyday routine.
Remember, using your preventer at home every day as prescribed means you’re less likely to get symptoms and need to use your blue reliever and spacer when you’re out and about.
2. Use a written asthma action plan
Asthma action plans help you know what medicines to take each day to stay well, how to spot your asthma’s getting worse and what to do if it does.
“Having an updated plan, and keeping a picture of it on your phone means you can take responsibility for your own asthma more easily,” says nurse Caroline. “You can also share it with friends, family and your school to help them understand what you’re dealing with and how to help you.”
Download an asthma action plan now and make an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse so you can fill it in together.
3. Make the most of your asthma review with your GP or asthma nurse
Research shows this will stop you having as many symptoms. You can talk about how your asthma’s been, what you may find difficult and how to solve any problems.
It can free you up to talk openly with your GP or asthma nurse if you don’t have a parent with you. See if you can organise at least some appointments just for you.
If you know you get on better with a particular GP or nurse, ask if you can see them.
“It’s really important you understand what you’re being told, that you feel comfortable asking questions and that you’re able to be honest if something isn’t working for you – for example, wanting a smaller inhaler or spacer to fit in your bag,” says nurse Caroline.
“Being able to talk about dealing with asthma triggers like alcohol, drugs or smoking and vaping as well as the most obvious ones like cold weather or dust mites is also important.”
- Have an inhaler and spacer chat. “If you’re forgetting your inhaler, find it fiddly to use, can’t get on with your spacer or worry about using them in front of other people, your GP or asthma nurse can help,” says nurse Caroline. “They can also talk to you about what the medicines are, how they work in your body to help deal with your asthma symptoms, and answer any questions or worries you’ve got about your asthma or your asthma medicines.” Most importantly, ask them to check your inhaler technique – if you’re not doing it just right you could be wasting your medicine at the back of your throat or in your mouth instead of getting it into your lungs where you need it. You can check out our quick inhaler videos in between appointments because it can be hard to remember everything.
- Get your written asthma action plan updated. Any changes in the way you look after your asthma mean you need to update your plan. Make sure you talk about any new triggers or ask for ideas on how to avoid the ones that really affect you. Keep a picture of your plan on your phone and share it with your parents, trusted friends and key adults at school.
- Book an asthma review if ever your symptoms come back, you notice you need to use your blue reliever three times or more in a week, you’re waking up because of your asthma or you’ve got questions or concerns. You should also have a yearly check-in, even if everything seems fine.
4. Find your trusted asthma friends
Finding people who’ve got your back when it comes to dealing with your asthma can make all the difference to how confident you feel about asking for time out if you don’t feel well, using your inhaler around other people or knowing you have people around you who can help if you have an asthma attack.
“Have a think about the people in your life who know about your asthma and could help you if you needed support,” says nurse Caroline. “Are you covered at home, school or work? Is there anyone else you could talk to? If there is, make a plan to talk to them about it when you next see them.”
5. Know how to spot an asthma attack – and what to do about it
Make sure you know what it feels like when your asthma’s not so good, what puts you more at risk of an asthma attack, and what you can do to stay well.
Do you know what to do if you have an asthma attack and do your friends and family know what to do to help you?
6. Find out as much as you can about asthma
Moving from children's NHS services to adult services: if you’re under a specialist, you will move from children’s services to adult services, usually between the ages of 16 and 18. Find out more on our transition page.
You can confidentially ask our asthma nurses anything about your asthma – whatever you want to know, or whatever worries you have. Message them via WhatsApp on 07378 606 728. Or talk to them by calling the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm).
Last updated September 2019
Next review due September 2022