Caring for someone with severe asthma

Advice and support if you look after someone with severe asthma

Health advice > Severe asthma > Managing severe asthma

Here we give practical advice on how you can help the person you care for, how to look after yourself, and how to balance work, life and caring.

On this page:

How do I know if I’m a carer?

A carer is someone who regularly cares for a friend, family member, or neighbour who couldn’t cope without that support. Anyone can be an unpaid carer. If you look after someone with severe asthma, you may not even consider yourself to be a carer.

You might care for them by helping with their food shopping, taking them to hospital appointments, or helping them with daily tasks like cooking and cleaning.

How can I help someone with severe asthma?

People living with severe asthma might have good days and bad days with their symptoms. Sometimes the medication they’re on might not be relieving symptoms. Because of this, caring for someone with severe asthma can be unpredictable.

If you’re new to caring for someone with severe asthma, it may help you to find out about the condition, and the difference between severe asthma and the types of asthma other people may have.

We have put together a list of some of the things you may need to know or do to help the person you care for:

  • Know what to do in case of an emergency. It’s a good idea to have a copy of their asthma action plan, and to know what to do in case of an asthma attack.
  • Understand what medicines they take and when to take them. This information should be written in their asthma action plan.
  • Help to monitor their symptoms. The person you care for may be tracking their peak flow and noting symptoms in a peak flow diary. You can help by letting them know any symptom changes you’ve noticed too.
  • Encourage them to exercise and stay active as much as they can. Exercise can improve their quality of life and help to reduce symptom flare-ups. Make sure they have asked their GP about pulmonary rehabilitation classes too.
  • Give emotional support. Some people with severe asthma might experience anxiety and depression. Let them know that they can talk to their GP about any issues they have with their mental health. You can also support the person you care for simply by being there to listen to them. We have lots of advice for coping with mental health and severe asthma.

You may also help them check their inhaler technique and work out when they’re next due an asthma review.

Looking after yourself as a carer

When you’re a carer, it’s really important to take time for yourself and get enough rest. We know that it can be hard to find time, so we have some advice for giving yourself a break and looking after yourself.

“When my wife sits to read a book, I plug myself into the game cube to play a game. When my wife sits to watch television, I get my models out to build and paint. I also have time for myself whilst washing the dishes because I plug myself into an audio book. I feel it is important to be creative with time and make use of it wisely.” – Says Sam, a carer for his wife Julie, who lives with severe asthma.

Ask family and friends for help

If you are the main carer, it’s a good idea to have support from family and friends so that you can make time for yourself and your own needs. Speak to them about helping with specific tasks. It’s a good idea to have someone ready to help if you’re ever unwell too.

You may also be able to get extra help with caring from charities or organisations – this is called respite care or carers breaks – your local council should have details of these in your area. Carers UK also has a directory of organisations that can help with caring needs.

Keep yourself fit and healthy

It’s important that you keep yourself fit and healthy for your physical and mental wellbeing. It will also help you to look after the person you care for well.

Here are some ideas on how to stay healthy:

  • Try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Exercise can help you to relax, keep fit and can even improve your mental health. The NHS has ideas on how to keep fit for free.
  • Try to eat a healthy diet. Cooking fresh, healthy meals can be time-consuming, but you could try batch cooking and freezing meals to save you time.
  • Ask your GP about getting a flu vaccination. And make sure your GP is aware of your caring role. Carers of people who are vulnerable to flu can get a free flu vaccine on the NHS. This will help to protect you and the person you care for. It’s also important to get your coronavirus vaccine too.

Look after your mental health

Sometimes you might feel down, anxious, or depressed. It is perfectly normal to experience these feelings. You could try to:

  • meet with friends as regularly as you can. Staying in touch and having a social life will benefit your mental health. If you can’t get out, even a phone call can make you feel closer to people.
  • share your experiences with other carers via our HealthUnlocked asthma forum.
  • find more support for mental health and caring from Mind.

You can also speak to your GP about further support if you need it.

Balancing work, life, and caring

If you work full time or part-time while caring, it might be hard to find the time for everything you need to do.

Some employers have something called a carer’s policy. Speak to your employer about your situation, as if they have a carer’s policy, they may be able to offer you:

  • carers’ leave (this might be paid or unpaid)
  • time off for taking the person you care for to appointments (paid or unpaid)
  • a carers’ support group or contact.

Citizens advice has more information about taking time off work to care for someone.

Further support for carers

We’ve put together a list of further help and support for carers.

  • A Carer’s Assessment - your local council can assess whether you have the support you need and are claiming the benefits you are entitled to.
  • Welfare benefits – we have more information about benefits you may be eligible for if you care for someone.
  • Breaks and respite care – the NHS has more information on getting help with carer’s breaks and respite care.
  • Carers Trust – providing support and advice for carers, including those under 18, a forum and information about local support centres.
  • Carers UK – provide help and advice for carers, such as benefits, carer’s assessments, and respite care.
  • Citizens advice – provide help and support for carers, including making day-to-day life easier and information on carers benefits.
  • Age UK – advice for older carers and a telephone befriending service.
  • The Children’s Society – support for young carers and their families.
  • Money Helper – information on money, health and how to prepare for a carer’s assessment.

For more support with caring for someone with severe asthma, call our friendly Helpline team on 0300 222 5800 (9am - 5pm; Mon - Fri). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.


Last reviewed: March 2022
Next review due: March 2025

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