With treatment, most people with asthma can live normal lives. There are also some simple ways you can help keep your symptoms under control.
Things you can do
- use your inhaler correctly – Asthma UK has information about using your inhaler, and you can ask your nurse or GP for advice if you're still not sure
- use your preventer inhaler or tablets every day – this can help keep your symptoms under control and prevent asthma attacks
- check before taking other medicines – always check the packet to see if a medicine is suitable for someone with asthma, and ask a pharmacist, doctor or nurse if you're not sure
- don't smoke – stopping smoking can significantly reduce how severe and frequent your symptoms are
- exercise regularly – exercise shouldn't trigger your symptoms once you're on appropriate treatment; Asthma UK has advice about exercising with asthma
- eat healthily – most people with asthma can have a normal diet
- get vaccinated – it's a good idea to have the annual flu jab and the one-off pneumococcal vaccination
Identify and avoid your triggers
It's important to identify possible asthma triggers by making a note of where you are and what you're doing when your symptoms get worse.
Some triggers can be hard to avoid, but it may be possible to avoid some, such as dust mites, pet fur and some medicines. See allergy prevention for more information.
Speak to your doctor or asthma nurse for advice if you think you've identified a trigger for your symptoms.
Asthma UK has more about asthma triggers.
You'll have regular contact with your doctor or asthma nurse to monitor your condition.
These appointments may involve:
- talking about your symptoms – for example, if they're affecting your normal activities or are getting worse
- a discussion about your medicines – including if you think you might be experiencing any side effects and if you need to be reminded how to use your inhaler
- breathing tests
It's also a good chance to ask any questions you have or raise any other issues you want to discuss.
You may be asked to help monitor your condition between appointments. For example, you may be advised to check your peak flow if you think your symptoms may be getting worse.
Your personal action plan should say what to do if your symptoms get gradually or suddenly worse. Contact your doctor or asthma nurse if you're not sure what to do.
Cold weather and asthma
Cold weather is a common trigger for asthma symptoms. Asthma UK advises the following to help you control your symptoms in the cold:
- carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times and keep taking your regular preventer inhaler as prescribed
- if you need to use your inhaler more than usual, speak to your doctor about reviewing your treatment
- keep warm and dry – wear gloves, a scarf and a hat, and carry an umbrella
- wrap a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth – this will help warm up the air before you breathe it
- try breathing in through your nose instead of your mouth – your nose warms the air as you breathe
Asthma UK has more about weather and asthma.
Travelling with asthma
Asthma shouldn't stop you from travelling, but you'll need to take extra precautions when going on holidays and long trips.
Make sure you have enough medicine with you, and keep your reliever inhaler easily accessible.
If you've not seen your doctor or asthma nurse for a while, it's a good idea to see them before you travel to review your personal action plan and make sure it's up to date.
Your doctor or asthma nurse can also advise you about travelling with asthma.
Asthma UK has more about asthma and travel
Pregnancy and asthma
Asthma doesn't affect your chances of having children, and the vast majority of women with asthma will have a normal pregnancy.
Generally, treatment stays the same during pregnancy. Most asthma medicines, particularly inhalers, are considered safe while pregnant or breastfeeding.
But you should speak to your doctor or asthma nurse for advice if you become pregnant or are planning a pregnancy, because:
- your symptoms may get worse during pregnancy – although some women find they improve – so your treatment may need to be reviewed regularly
- poorly controlled asthma in pregnancy can increase the risk of complications such as pre-eclampsia and premature birth
- extra precautions may need to be taken during labour to avoid an asthma attack, although attacks during labour are rare
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Asthma at school
Most children with well-controlled asthma can learn and participate in school activities without being affected by their condition.
But it's important to ensure the school has up-to-date written information about your child's asthma medicines, including what they are, how much they take and when they need to take them.
You may also need to supply the school with a spare reliever inhaler for use if your child experiences symptoms during the school day.
Staff at the school should be able to recognise worsening asthma symptoms and know what to do in the event of an attack, particularly staff supervising sport or physical education.
Your child's school may have an asthma policy in place, which you can ask to see.
Asthma UK has more about asthma at school and nursery.
Talking to others
Many people with long-term health conditions such as asthma experience feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
You may find it helpful to talk about your experience of asthma with others. Patient organisations have local groups where you can meet people who have been diagnosed with asthma and have undergone treatment.
If you feel you're struggling to cope, talk to your GP. They will be able to give advice and support. Alternatively, you can find depression support services in your area.
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Financial issues and help
Paying for your medicines
Most adults with asthma will need to pay a prescription charge for their medicines.
If you need to take a lot of medicines, paying for each item individually could get quite expensive. You may find it cheaper to get a prescription prepayment certificate. This is where you pay a one-off charge for all your prescriptions over a 3- or 12-month period.
You won't need to pay for your medicines if you don't normally pay prescription charges. For example, all under-16s are entitled to free prescriptions.
Depending on how severely asthma affects you on a daily basis, you may be entitled to some benefits, such as:
- Employment and Support Allowance – a benefit paid to people who are not able to work because of ill health or disability
- Personal Independence Payment – a benefit that helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill health or a disability if you're aged 16 to 64
- Attendance Allowance – a benefit for help with the extra costs you may have if you're 65 or over and have a physical or mental disability, and need someone to help look after you
If you're on a low income, you may also be entitled to some help with healthcare costs.
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If you develop asthma because of your work, and this is fully documented by your doctor and your employer, you can make a claim for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
This is a weekly amount paid to people with asthma caused by work-related exposure to a specific substance known to be associated with asthma. A list of asthma-causing substances is available from the Health and Safety Executive.
If you want to take legal action against your employer because of occupational asthma, your lawyer must act within 3 years of diagnosis.
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