Asthma UK community forum
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how do you cope?

I was wondering if other people could tell me how the cope when they are having attacks especialy in public. if i fall ill at home i can deal with it using my salbutamol and my spacer really well and i know exactly what to do. When i have attacks in public it is a different thing all together as i panic so much i forget what to do.

I hav to admit my work are very upportive and let me take as much time out as i need to but i feel so guilty that once the asthma attack is over i get myself into such a state. I carry my spacer and inhalor with me. in fact even as son as i feel an asthma atack starting or happening i sometimes don't know how to deal with it. Different people/first aiders try to get my to control my breathing through different techniques they know, afterwards i always say i'l deal with the next one so much better yet i never do. how does everyone else deal with attacks?


lauren x

16 Replies

Hi Lauren,

I know what you mean about struggling to cope with your asthma in public - I have always been very embarrassed by mine and still hate having attacks in front of people (you would think I'd be used to it by now!).

One way I cope (not sure how good advice this is) is to go somewhere a bit more private - I often nip to the loo at work to take my puffer. Obviously if you are having a bad attack, you don't want to do that, because you might need to get help, but if you are only needing a couple of puffs then it is ok. Do you work somewhere that lots of people can see you when you have an attack? Maybe it is worth finding a quiet corner where you can still get help quickly and easily but it less obvious. Also trying to catch it early, when you just need a couple of puffs and can manage to go somewhere like the loo is better than feeling embarrassed and waiting until you really can't manage without, cos then you are likely to need more of your puffer.

I am typing this thinking 'pot calling kettle' - I am so bad for not doing what i have said and letting it get too late, so well done for identifying a problem and trying to deal with it better.

Hope that is some help



Touch wood, i've never had a asthma attack in public! I have & will always carry my ventalin everywhere i go. If i don't have it i panic!

The radiographer who did my x-ray on Thursday said that the first attack she had was in Boots. Somebody had broke a bottle of TCP which caused her to have a attack. Must be very frightening.


I hate taking my inhaler inwork too even nore so cos i work on a respiratory ward and they watch the way i take it, and and sign of an attack I am straight down to a/e now that is embarassing sat there in my uniform and when they ask me what ward i work on it just a joke!!!!

I go to toilet to take it and tyr and struggle on quietly if I will but It sometimes hard to hide how ill I ma they spot me a mile off!!


I don't have a problem I will neb where-ever I need to trains and football being top favourites. I tend to travel off peak and 1st class so the odds of anyone seeing me neb are remote and at football everyone around me knows about me so no-one stares. Its also a trade of I want to do these things I have to accept being able to neb where-ever and as soon as I need to I don't have the luxuary of being able to wait to find somewhere discrete as rule.

Everyone knows someone with ashtma and the blue pumps are recognised everywhere. I tend to avoid 1st aid people as you are right you do get conflicting advice. An honourable exception goes to Tony and Chris the Crowd Dr's at Argyle who although I have never (nor do I intend ever) called on their services have agreed the if I need them will simply scoop and dash to the nearest A&E.

The only way you are ever going to get over this is to go for it. I remember frantically trying to hide my neb the 1st time I used it and looking for somewhere to hide. People look now if they see me and yes I have had the police called cos ""there is woman using an electric bong"" but stares don't hurt, not being able to breathe does. We complain all the time about how hard it is having a hidden disability and the go to huge lengths to hide it ourselves. I am not saying advertise it but if you need your inhaler or neb you need it. If 1st aiders get called I tell them I am fine I just need to sit quietly for a minute or I just need to finish this and I will be on my way I will let them know if I need more assitence.



Yes, I tend to be another of the Pot-Kettle-Black brigade here.

One thing I would say is that if you have a way of dealing with your attack that works for you, then simply (but politely) ignore anyone who tries to encourage you to do it ""their"" way (you mentioned ""Different people/first aiders try to get my to control my breathing through different techniques they know""). People with asthma have different ways of controlling and dealing with an attack that is often unique to them, and what works for one won't work for another - so find your own way and stick to it.

On a personal note, I have a group of friends and family around whom I am perfectly happy to take my inhaler, but would probably be mortified if I had to take it in front of my work colleagues, for example. I am fortunate now at work as I have my own room where I can be in private if needs be. I, too used to be one of the ""sneak off to the loo"" team!!


I will use my inhalor in public no problem and don't mind people seeing me use it but i don't like people seeing me using my spacer but if i need to use it and really can't move i use it. I work in a supermarket so there are often lots of people around. i am half office based and half shop floor based so i try and work that round what i do and if i feel il if possibe i attempt to work in the office and go back onto the shop after a while.

There is an office that is just used for meetings that i can use but i have a fear i am going to get so bad tht no one wil find me, its a really silly thing but i always think that. my work prefer a first-aider/duty manager to be present incase i get into trouble which i kind of prefer, and i've recently found that when i try and pretend i'm not having an attack it doesn't work - they are so used to it they know. its difficult though as i sometimes feel like such a nuisance whch is silly but i feel i need to justify whats wrong with me.

its funny though because if i am in other places i am fine but i think i make my attacks at work worse by panicking far too much.


another question

when do you decide your attack is serious enough to call an ambulance or for you to need to go to hospital? i have a complete phobia of hospitals and try to avoid going to them at all costs as i never want to be sen as a time waster if i think its serious and its not really but i never realy know.


Hi Lauren,

You will not (or should not) be seen as a time waster for going to hospital, whatever degree of asthma symptoms you are experiencing. Asthma can kill and most doctors would far rather see you sooner rather than later.

Everyone's threshold for going to hospital is different, depending on pattern of past attacks, treatment and severity and in time you will learn what is right for you. In the mean time though, you are having a severe attack if:

- your symtoms are getting worse

- your reliever treatment at its usual dose (be that inhaler, inhaler and spacer or neb) is making little or no difference

- you are too breathless to comfortably eat, sleep or talk in sentences

- you are drowsy or unconsicous or lips or nails are blue (very serious signs - dial 999 immediately)

If any of these apply, you should seek help urgently - ring your GP's out-of-hours service or if in doubt dial 999 - and keep taking your reliever every 5 minutes until you get help. Please don't attempt to drive yourself to hospital or the doctors when you are having an attack - if you can't get there safely any other way then don't have any qualms about calling an ambulance.

Just to reiterate - asthma can be fatal and in the majority of cases in which people die of asthma attacks, a significant and preventable factor is a delay in seeking help. No doctor or nurse should criticise you for 'wasting time' or seekign help 'too early'.

Hope this helps

Em H


I find that sometimes the most well meaning people start panicking when I have an attack. I get very bad coughing with my asthma, and of course, I start going blue in the face, and people start thumping me on the back, that is just dreadful. its fine if people who know me are about, they know to grab my inhaler from whereever it is and help me get into my hand, and sometimes help me use it, if I don't have a spacer with me.

I think the worse time for me, was once i at the National theatre, quite near the front, but right in the middle of a Long row, and it started, It was just dreadful, Dame Judy dench, who was starring in show, was giving me the eyeball. I felt I couldnt't move, I couldn't do anything apart from cough. eventually I had to disturb everyone and leave amongst the most terrible mutterings. Ghastly Ghastly ghastly.

I would say that most people I know are just incredibly concerned and very nice, even if they do totally the wrong things. I always try and explain afterwards what I would like them to do, if it should happen again.




thanks for replying.


i accidently sent that before i added to it.

I think my problem is i really panic even during the slightest attacks and in a way i kind of make it even worse for myself because i imagine the worse case scenario and i think that makes me try to avoid asking for help.

if i take attacks at work they just try to talk me through my breathing which is fine and it works but i then ,ake the mistae of never going home sick even after occassional multiple attacks.

i am just scared one day if i do ask for help or ask someone to call an ambulance i'll be taking time away from someone seriously ill which i kow is really stupid as asthma can kil.

how do you normally feel after attacks? i feel horrific after them but i never know if its after effects of taking an attack or because i've taking multiple doses of my inhalors.


lauren x


i felt just the same and never knew when to say i need more help till a friendly peep pm'd me after i had posted on here and told me to basically get myself to a and e which for 1st time i did. have to say much as i felt awful goign thinking i wasn't bad enough the staff were great and after a couple of nebs and a dose of steroids was dischardged. am not saying it makes it any easier to go back as since have had a pf of 50% and under more than once and not gone just stayed at home with ventolin cause felt i was coping. think you knoe yourself in the end if you are coping with your breathing but sometimes it just needs a friendly kick in the right direction b4 u actually seek further help. At least i know know what helps me.


i know what you mean. its just even when i feel bad i always think there must be someone worse off than me and don't want to take medical professionals away from other people. i'm also scared of what to expect from paramedics and a and e staff. i know its silly but its a genuine fear.


I seem to have real problems working out how to get my son to hospital when he is ill. I don't always have a car (may have one for a few months and then not have one for a while). I have taken him to hospital on the bus before as had no money for cab but felt really bad using an ambulance when I felt he was not in need of immediate medical attention. Neb before leaving home and pump with spacer on way if needed! I have also had very mixed reactions from hospital staff. One nurse spent the whole time with us complaining about people using ambulances unnecessarily - and even though Jayden was in majors with sats on 89% said she was glad we hadn't used one. On the other hand when Jayden was borderline for admission and I opted to go home I was told not to be to complaicent as people do die from Asthma. This was because I said I knew how Jays Asthma goes and would come back if there was any deterioration. So still don't know when it's appropriate to call an ambulance!!!


Koolkat, I'm horrified anyone would treat you like that! Can't believe that anyone would think that you should take a chance on a young boy with sats of 89%!

I am as fanatical as anyone about saving NHS resources (hey, the less money they spend the more doctors they can afford to employ!) but I would say if you are not sure whether an ambulance is needed or not, always err on the side of caution. Things can change very quickly in asthma, especially in kids, and there is not a lot you can do if you are driving the car and your child deteriorates.

I used to insist that my husband drive me to hospital, but after scaring him one too many times he now refuses to take me by car, and insists that we always call an ambulance. Sometimes when not quite so bad I do feel guilty but it has only once been questioned, and that by the operator at Ambulance Control who said to hubby 'Does she really need an ambulance? We're not a taxi service!'. Once he had told them my history they agreed that an ambulance was necessary.

Even if people did object, I would far rather be safe than sorry.



Hi Em

This nurse was in a real stop the whole time she was with us - while we were there a mother kicked up a fuss that she had been waiting 3 hours to see a doctor even though her daughter had come by ambulance. It appears our local hospital in central London has alot of people using the ambulance service for minor ailments as they think they will be seen quicker!! This nurse was unimpressed and mad a point of saying people should not do this. She asked how we got there and when I said we had driven she said good, I wish more people were like you. This comment has since made me question whether I should call for an ambulance or not. I must admit I had actually become quite complacent about Jaydens Asthma as he had never deteriorated quickly or needed IV's. It was a big shock for me when one night b2b nebs were not really helping,his sats were dropping and he was becoming distressed. Ended up in HDU that night. COMPLACENCY ENDED RIGHT THERE.

If I am at all concerned now I call an ambulance - Jayden is my child and I m not going to put him at risk.



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