Social life and severe asthma

Keeping your social life on track when you have severe asthma

Health advice > Severe asthma > Making life easier with severe asthma

Social life when you have severe asthma

Do you ever turn down social events, parties and evenings out with friends and family because of your severe asthma? Or feel you miss birthdays or big events like weddings because of your health?

In an Asthma UK survey, 70% told us that severe asthma gets in the way of their social life. 

You may find severe asthma only affects your social life from time to time, and doesn’t often stop you doing the things you enjoy with your friends and family. Or it might have a bigger impact, and stop you going out.

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. Making some simple changes can help you make the most of the good days so you can enjoy time with your friends and family.

Manage your symptoms

Making sure your severe asthma is as well-managed as possible will help you to make the most of your social life. You may not always be able to do everything you want to do – some people take all their medicines and still experience symptoms – but at least you’ll know that you’re not letting your symptoms make things more difficult than they need to be.

Managing your symptoms yourself means:

  • Make sure you have a written asthma action plan and a regular asthma review with a healthcare professional.
  • Keep taking your medicines as written in your plan and check your inhaler technique regularly.
  • Avoid things that trigger your asthma symptoms and avoid tobacco smoke.
  • If you smoke, get help to stop smoking as soon as possible.
  • Eat healthy food and try to keep your weight down.

If you have not been offered pulmonary rehabilitation think about asking your healthcare professional about it. Exercise and working on your breathing has been shown to cut down your risk of asthma symptoms and asthma attacks, and it can help improve your energy levels and quality of life.

Build your confidence

People with severe asthma tell us they often find it hard to relax and enjoy social occasions because they worry about having symptoms. They can feel embarrassed about using their inhalers in public and don’t want to be a burden on others. If you feel this way, or if you start to avoid going out altogether, then you should speak to your healthcare professional about how asthma is limiting your life.

They could help you feel more confident about managing your symptoms by:

  • Answering any questions you have about staying safe when you go out
  • Checking your inhaler technique to make sure you’re getting the most benefits from the medicines
  • Reassuring you that you’re already looking after your severe asthma as well as possible, which can boost your confidence.

Don’t forget, if you are feeling isolated you can always call our asthma nurses on 0300 222 5800 or chat via WhatsApp on 07378 606 728 to talk about managing symptoms and going out.

Plan ahead before going out

Pace yourself. If you have a big social event such as a wedding coming up, try to save your energy by resting as much as possible beforehand. Only do the most essential tasks and try to break them down into chunks so you don’t get too tired.

Make a medicines checklist. Make it easier by writing a checklist of all the things you need whenever you go out or go away overnight, for example, your:

Set reminders on your mobile phone. Add reminders on your smartphone, or set an alarm to nudge you to take your medicines when you’re out.

Explain severe asthma to your friends and family

People are often more understanding if they know why you have had to cancel or say no to invitations.

Talking openly to your family, friends and colleagues about your severe asthma can help them understand the condition. Someone who listens to you is more likely to:

  • Take your asthma seriously.
  • Understand if you have to take time off work or cancel social plans.
  • Feel less frightened and help you if you’re having an asthma attack.
  • And you’re likely to feel supported rather than misunderstood.

“I think the worst thing I’ve done in the past is tell people: 'It’s just asthma.’ No it’s not. It’s severe asthma and it’s life-threatening. I think honesty is the best policy.” – Jo Beecroft

You can ask them to read our ‘What is Severe Asthma?’ page to understand that the condition is completely different from the kind of asthma most people have.

Ask them to be part of your support team when you’re out – take a photo of your asthma action plan on your smartphone and email it to close friends and family so they know what to do if you have symptoms.

Turn your home into your social hub

No matter how well you manage your severe asthma, sometimes symptoms will get in the way. When you have lots of symptoms and very little energy, try to think of other ways you can still enjoy social events.

If you have to miss a big event, once you feel better perhaps you could ask a few of the other guests to meet for drinks and show you their photos.

Why not invite friends round for tea and cake or a takeaway at times you can’t go out?

Stay in touch with your friends and family by using social media, email, video conferencing or phone apps like Skype or FaceTime, so you can chat and joke with people even if you’re at home.

Talk to other people with severe asthma on our HealthUnlocked forum – finding out how other people with severe asthma are managing can help you to feel less isolated and meet new people who might understand just how you feel. 

Last updated April 2020

Next review due February 2022