[Guest blog] Getting the best care when you’re living with asthma

Clinical Lead and GP at Asthma UK
03 May 2018

If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, you might already be taking steps to help you live well with the condition. Perhaps you’re taking prescribed medicines or following lifestyle advice from your doctor. But recent research from Asthma UK, shows that 65 per cent of people living with asthma don’t receive the basic care they should be getting.

If you have asthma, there are things you can do to proactively manage your condition and make sure your basic care needs are being met. Asthma UK’s Clinical Lead and GP, Dr Andy Whittamore, shares his top tips to help you stay well.

1. Have an action plan

If you use a written asthma action plan, you’re four-times less likely to be admitted to hospital for your asthma. This is something your GP or asthma nurse should complete with you as part of your asthma review, and it’s the best thing you can do to stay well with asthma.

Your asthma plan will help you remember what medicines to take and when, what to do if you start having symptoms and will include your GP or asthma nurse’s contact details. It will also remind you when your next asthma review is due and contain advice on monitoring your asthma every day. Try putting a copy on your fridge as a daily reminder, and telling your friends and family where it is in case there’s an emergency.

2. Get the best from your asthma review

Your asthma review is an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse, which should happen at least once a year. At your annual review, you’ll be able to discuss your condition and ways to manage your symptoms better. However, if you’re having asthma symptoms, don’t wait for your annual check. Give your surgery a call and get seen sooner.

Before you go for your review, write a list of any questions you want to ask. For example, you may feel your medicine dosage isn’t right or want help in coping with your triggers. Also, keep a note of any symptoms to help your GP get an accurate picture of your condition. At the appointment, be open about your lifestyle and how often you take your medicine so they can work with you to find medicines that suit you, your asthma and your lifestyle.

Finally, make sure you leave with all your questions answered, an updated written asthma action plan, feeling confident with using your inhaler or medication, and your next review booked.

3. Make the most of your pharmacist

Your pharmacist is another health expert you can turn to for advice and support – you don’t need an appointment and some are open outside of GP surgery hours. Many pharmacies have private consultation rooms too. 

As well as getting advice and reassurance about your asthma and your medicines, some pharmacists also offer free repeat prescription collection services and, in some cases, asthma reviews.

4. Don’t ignore your symptoms

Signs your asthma is getting worse include:

  • needing more and more of your reliever inhaler (usually the blue one)
  • wheezing
  • waking in the night with coughing or wheezing
  • not being able to walk as far or as fast as usual or being breathless when you do

If you notice any of these signs, it means your asthma symptoms are getting worse and you need to take action straight away to prevent an asthma attack. Make an urgent appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse within 24 hours, and follow the advice on your written asthma action plan.

5. Know when to go to A&E versus your GP surgery

If you're having asthma symptoms, it can be difficult to know whether you need to make an appointment to see your GP or whether it's time to dial 999 for an ambulance.

If your reliever isn’t helping, you’re too breathless or it’s difficult to speak, eat or sleep you need to call an ambulance. However, if you’re having asthma symptoms or are using your reliever inhaler more than usual, make an appointment to urgently see your GP.

6. Quit smoking and avoid smoky environments

Smoking, or being around other people who are smoking, can lead to asthma symptoms or even an asthma attack.

It’s not always easy to quit, but if you’re a smoker, giving up is vital if you want to manage your asthma well and lower your risk of an asthma attack. If you have a child with asthma, being in a smoke-free environment will make a big difference to how they manage their asthma symptoms.

7. Use your peak flow test

For those who have a peak flow meter, peak flow readings can help to alert you if your asthma is starting to struggle – sometimes many days before an attack.

To get the best from your peak flow meter, you need to take your readings twice every day, and keep a diary of your symptoms. This is so you can see when your medicines are working and spot when your asthma is getting worse, so you can take action and lower your risk of an asthma attack. However, don’t be falsely reassured by normal peak flow readings. If you’re getting asthma symptoms and they’re worse than normal, make an appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse.

8. Take part in a 12-week asthma support programme

If your asthma symptoms are having a severe impact on your quality of life, you can sign up for Asthma UK’s 12-week asthma support programme, giving free, personalised support through your smartphone. It’s designed to boost your confidence and support you with keeping a routine and fitting your medicines into daily life.

Asthma UK received a grant from the Bupa UK Foundation. The Bupa UK Foundation funds practical projects that will make a direct impact on people's health and wellbeing. Launched in 2015, to date it has awarded over £1.4 million in grants to more than 50 projects across the UK to improve people’s mental health, support carers and empower young adults living with ongoing health challenges to live life to the full.

Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. It does this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people with asthma through its nurse-staffed helpline and expert advice on its website. For more information please visit

Dr Andy Whittamore
Clinical Lead and GP at Asthma UK

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