Living with asthma in the UK

The Ultimate Guide to Asthma: Treatments, Triggers & Prevention

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Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties. It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood though it can appear for the first time in adulthood. There is no cure but there are simple treatments that can help keep the symptoms under control. Some people, especially children, may eventually grow out of asthma but for others, it is a lifelong condition


People living with asthma have swollen breathing tubes that make it difficult to carry air in and out of the lungs. The narrowing of the breathing tubes is caused by triggers such as irritants and allergens.

Asthma triggers clog the breathing tubes with mucus making it difficult to breathe. However, there are a few things that are suggested to be causes of asthma. They include pollutants and genetics.

Asthma triggers.

Some of the common triggers that cause asthma include:

  • Change in weather; cold air and high heat 
  • Allergies; pollen and dust mites 
  • Infections; cold flu
  • Mouldy substances 
  • Medicines; anti-inflammatory medicines 

Who is at risk of getting asthma?

You may be at risk of getting asthma if:

  • You smoke tobacco or are exposed to tobacco smoking zones 
  • You have atopic conditions such as Hay fever and  Eczema 
  • You have a family history of asthma 
  • You are suffering from bronchiolitis
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The doctor uses a few tests to diagnose asthma. This test includes 

Peak flow test. This type of test measures how first you can breathe out. The doctor will instruct you to breathe using your device a few times a week.
Feno test. In this test, the doctor instructs you to breathe into a machine that measures the amount of nitric oxide in your breath. The level of Nitric oxide shows the level of inflammation in your breathing tubes.
Spirometry. This is a test that uses a machine that measures the amount of air your lungs can hold and how fast you can breathe out 




The main treatment for asthma is Asthma inhalers. However, there are other treatments that your doctor may consider to relieve asthma symptoms. They include injections, therapies, tablets, and surgery.

⏩ Inhalers.

Inhalers are treatment devices designed for you to breathe in medicine. Inhalers can either relieve symptoms, stop the development of asthma symptoms, or both. There are 3 types of inhalers: Reliever inhalers, preventer inhalers, and combination inhalers.

Reliever inhalers.

Reliever inhalers treat asthma symptoms when they occur. They are blue and take a few minutes to relieve asthma symptoms. A few minutes after using a reliever inhaler, you may experience a fast heartbeat as a side effect. An example of a reliever inhaler is Ventolin Inhaler.

Preventer inhalers 

Preventer inhalers contain steroid medicine and can be used even when you are not suffering from asthma symptoms. Preventer inhalers prevent inflammation and sensitivity of your air passage.

After using preventer inhalers you may experience soar throat, fungal infection in the mouth or throat, and soar throat. To prevent such occurrences, rinse your mouth after using the inhaler.

Combination inhalers.

Combination inhalers play the role of preventer and reliever inhalers. Combination inhalers stop asthma symptoms and relieve asthma symptoms. It contains the same side effects as preventer and reliever inhalers.

⏩ Tablets 

Tablets can be used alongside an inhaler to control asthma symptoms. Examples of the tablets include:


Theophylline is a medicine that is taken every day to control asthma symptoms. While taking Theophylline you may experience side effects such as headache.

Steroid tablets.

Steroid tablets can be taken either as a long-term treatment or immediate treatment. It's preferred as a long-term treatment for people suffering from severe asthma. In case you don't have your inhaler, and have an asthma attack, a steroid tablet is preferred as an immediate treatment.

Long-term use of steroid tablets may cause side effects such as high weight gain, high blood pressure, and weak bones.

Leukotriene receptor antagonist.

Leukotriene receptor antagonist is the most used asthma tablet treatment. It's available in 2 forms: powder and syrup form. Your doctor may recommend you take the medicine daily to control asthma symptoms.

Long-term use of Leukotriene receptor antagonists can cause side effects such as headache and stomach pain.

⏭️ Complementary therapies.

Some of the complementary therapies that you can use include breathing exercises, manual therapies, and traditional Chinese herbs.

⏩ Surgery 

It's a type of surgery where the surgeon puts you to sleep using anesthesia medicine. A thin flexible tube is passed down to your lungs, The heat produced is used to prevent your muscles from narrowing.

⏩ Injections 

In case you are suffering from severe asthma, asthma specialists recommend injection treatments known as biologic therapies. Biologic therapies are given a few times a week



The main symptoms of asthma are:

  1. Breathlessness
  2. A tight chest which may feel like a band is tightening around it
  3. Wheezing – a whistling sound when breathing
  4. Coughing

How to keep asthma symptoms under control.

There are a few practices that will help you manage asthma. They include:

  • Have an action plan for asthma attacks.
  • Regular check-ups 
  • Avoid asthma triggers 
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Proper use of an inhaler 
  • Use preventer inhalers and tablets every day.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Smoking increases the severity of asthma symptoms 
  • Exercise opens up your lungs enhancing the smooth flow of fresh air 
  • Preventer inhalers and tablets keep asthma symptoms under control
  • Ensure that you always use your inhaler correctly
  •  A balanced diet adds healthy nutrients to your body.
  • Ensure that your room is dust-free and keep away from fur animals.
  • Regular checkups enable the doctor to examine your symptoms and recommend the right treatment and practices to prevent asthma symptoms.
  • An action plan helps in coping with asthma attacks effectively.

What should be included in an asthma action plan?

  • Emergency contacts 
  • Signs of an asthma attack
  • Actions to take in case asthma signs show up
  •  When to get medical help 
  • Appropriate use of asthma treatments.




Living with asthma

 It's possible to manage asthma in places of work, school while traveling, during pregnancy, and when asthma symptoms occur in an infant. Below are possible ways to manage asthma for people living with asthma.

Managing asthma at work.

Living with asthma at work can be stressful especially if some conditions trigger asthma symptoms. A moldy carpet, dust, paints, cigarette smoke, insects, and cleaning products are some of the things that may trigger asthma symptoms.

You should speak to your employer if you are experiencing asthma flares. Your employer will help by providing measures that will protect you from the triggers. Some of the measures include moving your office spaces with no dust exposure or moldy carpets.

You should also speak to your doctor to get checkups. Long-term exposure to allergens may lead to permanent lung damage.

Asthma at school.

Children can actively participate in school activities such as physical education and sports if their asthmatic conditions are well monitored.

Schools should provide up-to-date information that monitors the asthmatic conditions of the affected children. The information may include the type of medicine, the quantity of medicine, and the exact time the medicine is taken.

A parent needs to provide extra inhalers to the school, in case the child experiences asthma symptoms. Also, review the schools' policies on asthma to ensure that your child is always safe in case of an asthma attack.

Asthma during pregnancy.

Research shows that asthma cannot put the life of a fetus at risk during pregnancy. Asthmatic women can still have a normal pregnancy, however they can still use inhalers. It is recommended that pregnant women or women who are planning to get pregnant consult their doctor on how to deal with their asthmatic condition.

Reasons why asthmatic pregnant women should consult a doctor.

  • To take extra precautions that will help in managing labor.
  • To prevent the risk of complications like premature birth, stillbirth, high blood pressure, and pre-eclampsia doctor helps in reviewing asthma treatments. Asthma symptoms may get worse during pregnancy.


Asthma in infants.

Asthma is a chronic condition that commonly affects children under the age of 5. Asthma symptoms in infants and children are similar. Some of the symptoms you may see in infants and children are:

  1. Difficulty in eating and sucking 
  2. Dark circles under the eyes
  3. Irritability 

Traveling with asthma.

Traveling can be sensitive for asthmatic patients. They may face some problems that may affect their immune system therefore they require a backup plan. Some of the precautions that asthmatic patients should take before traveling include:

  1. Consulting with a doctor in case a change of medications is required
  2. Learning some local languages in the area of destination. The local languages include words like hard to breathe, medication, or allergy. These words might help them in case they need urgent help 
  3. Be aware of cultural differences. For example in some cultures smoking and the use of allergens that may trigger asthma symptoms is normal.
  4. Refilling treatments 
  5. Be aware of changes in time. Helps them track the time when to take their medications.
  6. Research on local healthcare providers in the area of destinations. Local healthcare providers may help in treating asthmatic conditions.

Cold weather and asthma.

Cold weather increases the severity of asthma symptoms. Asthmatic patients should take precautions during cold weather. Some of these asthma precautions include:

  1. Keep warm. Asthma patients can keep warm by wearing warm clothes such as gloves, hats, and coats during the cold season.
  2. Avoid breathing through the mouth. Breathing through the nose warms the air and also traps some allergens.
  3. Always wear a scarf loosely around your mouth and nose to keep air warm while breathingAlways have your reliever inhaler and take a regular preventer inhaler as your doctor prescribes. 

Asthma attacks

If you are suffering from an asthma attack you should:

  • Call 999 for an ambulance if you don't have your inhaler with you, you feel worse despite using your inhaler,you don't feel better after taking 10 puffs or you're worried at any point.
  • Sit down and try to take slow, steady breaths. Try to remain calm, as panicking will make things worse
  • Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds up to a maximum of 10 puffs. It is best to use a spacer if you have one
  • If the ambulance hasn't arrived within 15 minutes repeat step 2
  • After an attack, you should see your GP within 48 hours of leaving the hospital or within 24 hours if you don't need hospital treatment. One in six people treated in hospital needs hospital care again within two weeks, so it's important to discuss how you can reduce the risk of future attacks

The following steps can help you reduce your risk of having an asthma attack:

  • Follow your asthma action plan and take all your medicines as prescribed
  • Check with your GP or asthma nurse that you are using your inhaler correctly
  • Have regular asthma reviews with your GP or asthma nurse – these should be done at least once a year
  • Avoid things that trigger your symptoms whenever possible.
Asthma Inhalers


Asthma is a respiratory disease affecting people globally, 300 million people are affected with asthma and 3 out of 5 suffer from severe Asthma symptoms. People living with asthma can manage asthma symptoms by monitoring their symptoms, taking asthma treatments, and avoiding triggers.

You can buy inhaler treatments from Ashcroft Pharmacy by filling in some consultation forms before purchasing your treatment.

Reviewed by

Name Mr Suhail Jamil 
Role Superintendent Pharmacist
GPhc Number 2069518

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