1 in 20 people with asthma have severe asthma

“It took a while to work with my GP to find the right combination of medicines”

Peter Naylor, 52, was diagnosed with severe asthma in 2010

Peter NaylorA frightening experience

“I was diagnosed with asthma at the age of three, but it wasn’t until I had a particularly bad asthma attack in 2010 that I got the diagnosis of severe asthma. It had been getting gradually worse for some time but the asthma attack was triggered by fumes from some work being done on the roof of my office.

"I remember being in hospital and knowing that the medicines weren’t working, getting more and more terrified, then looking up and seeing a sign saying ‘resuscitation’."

Keeping a peak flow diary for my asthma nurse

“When I first came out of hospital, I worried about whether I’d be able to go back to work, and whether I’d have another asthma attack. It took a while to work with my GP to find the right combination of medicines with the minimum of side effects, but my current combination seems to be working. I have to use my reliever inhaler pretty regularly but I can still get to the gym around three times a week.

“My GP and asthma nurse send me reminders about my annual reviews, and check my weight and how well my medicines are working. Between appointments I keep a diary of my peak flow readings, and I take a note of all the asthma medicines I use so I can show the GP."

Meditation helped me see things in a new light 

“My advice to someone who has just been diagnosed with severe asthma is to learn as much as you can, and to understand that you can lead an active life still. You can’t cure it, but you can manage it. Don’t shut yourself off if you don’t have to, because being inactive and gaining weight can make your asthma worse. 

“I used to get angry and feel that it was unfair that I had this condition, so I’d also advise someone to seek some kind of counselling to learn how to manage your emotions and anxiety – or try something to calm your breathing and mood, whether that’s yoga or meditation. It’s not a cure, but it does help you see things in a different light.

“I practice meditation, and I’ve have had some cognitive behavioural therapy through the NHS Time to Talk programme, which I’ve found very useful for asthma – it’s all about challenging negative thoughts. I have to accept that I have asthma and there’s no cure – that’s a fact. But what I can change is the way I feel and think about it, and what I do to manage it, like taking my medicines and keeping active.”

Exercise is good for my body and mind

“I used to be quite proud and force myself to go to the gym even if I wasn’t feeling well, but now I recognise the warning signs. I’ve been using more weights recently as that doesn’t make me feel out of breath like cardio does.

“My reliever inhaler is always with me, even at the gym. Although I have to lock my main sports holdall away, I have a much smaller bag that I can take between machines so it’s always to hand. When I’m at home I keep it in the kitchen so it’s always in the same place. It’s part of my routine to check that I have it every time I leave the house."

There’s still more to do

“On a bad day, even with all the medication I’m taking, I still struggle to breathe. So it’s really important that the research continues to look at other ways of improving asthma, and we work towards that goal of a cure for asthma.

“The one thing that would make my life better right now would be improving other people’s understanding and awareness of asthma, and severe asthma in particular. Compared to other chronic conditions, asthma isn’t taken seriously, and it’s more likely to be brushed under the carpet. I think the general public knows a lot about asthma at school, but it’s rarely touched on in adults or in the workplace.

“People don’t understand that asthma is a condition for life and just how bad it can be. I have colleagues who have asthma, but they’ve never been hospitalised, and I’ve never seen them have an asthma attack, whereas I’ve had several at work.

“My employers have been very understanding. They’re pretty accommodating when I need to go to medical appointments, and they’ve asked me to write something for the staff website so I can help people understand my asthma better.” 

Last updated September 2016

Next review due September 2019