Caring for someone with severe asthma

Advice and support for carers looking after someone with severe asthma

Health advice > Severe asthma > Managing severe asthma

Are you an asthma carer?

A carer is someone who cares for a friend or family member with severe asthma, who cannot cope without their support. Many people who are providing this support don’t see themselves as carers, and it can take an average of two years to acknowledge that what you are doing is being a carer.

Looking after someone with severe asthma

People with severe asthma can be well one day and very unwell the next. Sometimes they don’t have the usual warning signs that a life-threatening asthma attack is coming on. People with asthma can develop depression and other conditions. It means being a carer for someone with severe asthma can be unpredictable and stressful.

As a carer you will need to know what to do in an emergency if the person with asthma has an asthma attack. You will need to have a copy of their personal asthma action plan and details of their medicines in case their symptoms mean they can’t talk.

Helping someone with severe asthma with their daily life and their asthma means you might find yourself helping with:

  • Monitoring symptoms
  • Taking medicines as prescribed and collecting medicines from the pharmacist 
  • Exercise programmes 
  • Attending hospital appointments 
  • Going to A&E in an emergency 
  • Cooking healthy meals 
  • Giving emotional support

Looking after yourself as a carer 

Carers often put more effort into the needs of the person they care for and can find it hard to look after themselves. 

Carers told Asthma UK that they can’t always have holidays, they don’t do as much exercise as they’d like to or go out with friends. They don't feel they can just relax when they feel like it. 

In an Asthma UK survey, over half of carers say their general health has got worse since they started caring for someone.

Staying healthy

If you are a carer, try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Going for a walk, to an exercise class or for a swim will help you relax and keep fit.  

Eating well is important too, but sometimes you are too busy to cook healthy meals from scratch. When possible do some batch cooking and make up meals that can go into the freezer for when you don’t have time to cook.

Have healthy snacks to go to between meals. Use the internet to do your shopping. It can save time and you can save a healthy food list to use each time you shop. 

If you feel ill, don’t put off going to the doctor. Make time for appointments for yourself.

Many carers who completed our survey have asthma themselves. If you have asthma, remember to manage your asthma well. Let your doctor or asthma nurse know you are a caring for someone with severe asthma. The stress and effort of being a carer can have an impact on your asthma.

Ask your GP if you need a flu vaccination – it’s usually given every year between the beginning of October and early November

Depression

Depression, stress and anxiety are common among carers. Don’t suffer in silence – talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling. Ask your doctor about treatment options. 

Don’t ignore your own social life and try to see friends regularly. Stay in touch with friends and family by phone or on social media as often you can. Sharing experiences with other carers can help you feel less isolated and more understood. Carers UK, Carers Trust, and Asthma UK all have online forums. 

If the person you’re caring for has recently had an asthma attack and you had to call 999, don’t underestimate the effect it might have on you as well. Give yourself time to recover and get extra rest afterwards.

Ask for help

While friends and family may want to help out, they might not know how or feel embarrassed to offer, so ask people to help with specific tasks.

If someone you trust offers to help then arrange for them to take over for a while and enjoy the free time. Having time to yourself is an important part of being a carer. Make it a priority to use this time to enjoy yourself and not to do more housework. 

You may be eligible for a carer’s break – it could be a one off break, one morning a week, or a week’s respite care. The NHS has information on getting help with carer’s breaks and respite care.

Support for carers 

The organisations below can help with advice and support for carers and their families. 

Your local council
Arrange a Carer’s Assessment. Carer’s Assessments are a conversation with your council so they can make sure you have the support you need and are claiming any benefits you are entitled to.

Carers Trust
Support and advice for carers, including those under 18, a forum and information about local support centres.

Carers UK
Help and advice for carers, such as benefits, carer’s assessments and respite care.

Benefits and Disability GOV.UK
Find out about what benefits you, and the person you care for, can claim.

Age UK
Advice for older carers and a telephone befriending service.

The Children’s Society
Support for young carers and their families.

Contact
A charity for families with disabled children. 

The Money Advice service
Information on money, health and how to prepare for a carer’s assessment.

Last updated March 2020

Next review due March 2022