1 in 20 people with asthma have severe asthma

"How I cope with severe asthma"

A written asthma action plan helps Jenny Negus manage her severe asthma.

"I had eczema and various allergies as a child and had my first asthma attack when I was 18. I have a diagnosis of severe asthma and lots of triggers - hormones, grass pollen, colds and viruses, especially viral ear infections; cats; certain chemicals and perfumes; feather pillows and fur."

Hormonal asthma

"Keeping a diary made me realise that I would often have an asthma attack a couple of days before my period. Since I've been on the progesterone-only mini pill, my asthma is no longer triggered by hormones so I don't end up in hospital every 28 days!"

Grass pollen

"Pollen is another one of my triggers. I was just a few days into a dream summer holiday with my parents. It was July and we were staying in an idyllic cottage on a farm in Dorset. The weather was just lovely and we were very close to the beach. My asthma hadn't been too bad at that point - it had actually been quite well controlled. The holiday was a much needed break that I had been really looking forward to. My dad had taken our dog, Honey, out for a walk and when they came back I could see pollen all over Honey's paws. Within an hour and a half of being exposed to this I was unable to breathe and having a severe asthma attack.

"The cottage was in the middle of nowhere and my dad had to rush me to the nearest hospital. I was given emergency treatment and ended up having to stay there for 10 days. The rest of the trip was spent with my parents coming to see me in hospital every day and even having to go back to our home to get me some personal items I needed. I was well supported by the doctors and nurses but I was initially very scared about being treated in an unfamiliar hospital - this was the first time I ever had been."

Staying positive

"My asthma has a tendency to screw up many things! This holiday is just one example. Very luckily the owner of the farm heard about our ruined trip and gave us a heavily discounted price on a weekend away there later that year - every cloud hey!

"And since having monthly Xolair injections to reduce my allergic response, at least I'm able to go outside in summer now. If the pollen count is high and I can feel my asthma coming on, I'll take an extra antihistamine in the late afternoon so that symptoms don't kick in overnight."

Using an asthma action plan

"I'm on loads of medication, but the asthma action plan I wrote with my consultant and asthma nurse helps me to keep on top of everything. They say in A&E that I come with written instructions! Joking aside, it's actually very helpful to hand over my plan with details of my medication, doses, times - when I'm in the middle of an attack and finding it difficult to breathe and talk."

Taking steroids

"I've been taking steroid tablets for severe asthma for 11 years. Probably like most people I used to hate taking them and a few years ago, decided to stop all my medication. I was in hospital 36 hours later. Even though the high dose of steroids I take causes some side effects, without them I wouldn't breathe as well or have such a good quality of life. You need to balance it up."

"Initially I put on a lot of weight because the steroids made me feel hungry. Then six years ago, I realised that even if you feel hungry, you have a choice whether to overeat or not. It's not the medication that makes you reach for sugar! I switched to a healthy diet and I've lost 20 kilos."

"I do have osteoporosis so I've been prescribed monthly calcium tablets to protect my bones. I've lost an inch and a half in height over seven years, but I need the steroids to breathe."

Getting into a good routine

"I never forget to take my medication. I've worked things out with the doctor so that I can take my tablets with breakfast, with supper and then at bedtime. I get a week's worth of medication at a time and arrange them into 21 compartments (three a day for seven days) in a pill organiser. Doing this means I don't need to get all the individual packets out every day and if I'm going out I can just stick the day's supply in my handbag. It's part of my routine now and saves me time in the long run. Being organised with my medication means they don't take over my life."

Last updated August 2016

Next review due August 2019