Asthma UK community forum

how do we make them understand?

sorry for this, but i could do with having a rant, please. i dont need medical assistance (got enough meds to sink a ship!). i have read the T&C's. thank you to the members that have recently posted about working and the trouble that we seem to have in getting employers or line managers or workplaces to understand this condition. it helped me to realise i'm not alone!

i am having (now into it's fourth week) an excerbation of my usually well controlled asthma due to renovation works at my place of work. i asked when the idea was mooted that i have a different desk to work from as far away as possible from the building work (demolition, brick and plaster dust, paint and carpet glue fumes). this was not facilitated. the solution when i had a PEF fall from 400 to 320 at work and i stated that i couldnt manage anymore, was to give me a flexi day off and shut the doors. (actually the door that they closed only stays closed if we arent answering the public counter). this didnt really help.

then a couple of days i later had a full blown asthma attack at work, got to see the asthma nurse while stilll in the throws of it who agreed that this ""reasonable adjustment"" of closing doors wasnt enough. i went back to work after the appointment and told line management that the nurse said i needed to move desks. they sent me home after my colleagues had come back from lunch.

i had one and half days off sick and returned to find that they had found me a different office room to work in. PEF not really recovering much even after working at this desk for 2 and half weeks.

i am still plagued almost every night and i can feel my PEF falling as the day goes on. i start the day pretty good approx 410 and by end of play 8 hours later its down.

it has been intimated by more than one colleague that its all in my head. i've been told to wear a mask or sit in a bubble or a box. i've been told that my ""asthma"" (the colleague used the finger quote action) is no worse than someone elses weak chest (from childhood bronchitis) (this colleague hasnt shown any chesty symptoms). i've been told that i always have daily asthma attacks at work (i beg to differ!) i would say i have had 4 full blown attacks in the last 2 years due to renovation work and one before that in the 10 years i've worked for this organisation.

i've been asked why working at my desk would be any different to sitting in a different room now that the work is complete, since i'm still saying that i'm unwell. i am expected to return to my desk on Monday when the painters are not finshing until tomorrow. the cleaning company have been asked to deep clean (however i fear they have no idea what the words deep and clean mean) and how can they when the decorators are in on Saturday and the cleaners dont work on Sundays.

i have given my manager a wellness & recovery plan as suggested by occy health, which received little positive response. occy health and the GP have written to manager to make recommendations. when occy health report was received it was ""this doesnt tell us anything we havent done or didnt know already"". Occy Health are on my side and have said i must do what is best for me. but the working regs say we must do everything we can to limit the amount of time we have off sick and that if we have three episodes of sick in 12 months then HR can start investigations.

do i battle on and risk getting more unwell with the inevitable trip to Costa (it would be my first ever)? do i see the GP again and get them to sign me off sick (which is counterproductive as if i stay at home i'm well enough to work)? do i try my desk and then ask again for a ""reasonable adjustment"" of moving to yet another desk, and then for how long? and no they will not let me work from home (i'm not in a high enough ranking role to be allowed a roaming access card).

i wish my lungs would just recover and stop causing all this hassle.

thank you for taking the time to read this rant. sorry it doesn't sound more positive but i'm feeling rather fed-up. i know lots of you are severe asthmatics all the time and i just cant comprehend how you cope! well done. Bless you all xx ><>

7 Replies

Aggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr makes me so angry they don't listen they have a duty of care to keep you safe under the health & safety act. I would suggest a doctors fit note that states your fit for work but not in those conditions. I would also get your occy health to write to gp & maybe print off some stuff off here and give it to your line managr and explain people die from asthma.( wouldnt want that at work or would they ) I would also point out if you injur yourself at work whilst having an attack & are off work for more than 3 days it would become a riddor masses of paper work and your ony trying to pevent this. That you are trying to work with them not against them.

good luck


bless you Glenn, thank you for your support.

I have given management literature from here, and from SIGN (Scotland's version of NICE), if they bother to read it! (take a horse to water but cant make them drink).

the occy health report went to managment, GP, HR and me. the wellness and recovery plan details green, amber and red actions including needing to call 999 and how to help me take my inhalers. management just said ""interesting"".

i know an asthma attack could land me in Costa or worse! whether they realise that asthma could kill me, i dont know. i have told them it is a matter of life and death, that it is important to me, that i need to be taken seriously. i even put on the recovery plan that i wanted them to help me to not feel guilty about being unwell, that this isnt attention seeking, that i have no control over the reaction of my lungs other than to take my blue inhaler and preventer medications! what more information can i give them!

and thanks for the mention of RIDDOR, this was invoked the last time this happened at work (last March - ended up in exactly the same position with three weeks off work sick because of it). this time i am trying to work, but am almost at the point where i am going to go off sick as i'm needing longer to recover from each PEF fall, i'm not sleeping and am mentally exhausted.

Thank you again Glenn for being so understanding, i'm sorry my post made you cross! take care of yourself too please. xx ><>


I really do sympathise and understand how frustrating this can be. I think because we don't like to make a fuss, people often don't realise how much asthma affects us and how serious it can be.

I can't really say much of help except to let you know that you're not alone. I've had similar problems since my asthma got worse last year - although not caused by work. Had an allergic reaction and was left alone after someone fetched my inhaler for me, then made to go back into class (I'm a teacher) for the rest of the day, even being observed teaching, and didn't seem the slightest bit concerned when I told them about the reaction afterwards. I've also had a colleague question whether I was really asthmatic and suggest I was having panic attacks. On returning to work I've been ignored by colleagues who didn't even manage to ask if I was ok, including after being admitted to hospital last summer.


hi spooky, thanks for the message and your understanding.

you're right it's frustating, and that doesnt help with the airways either. i noted by the other messages that i wasnt alone in being managed badly in the workplace and i'm sorry that it's also happened to you. i am at the end of my tether with them and just needed to voice all my angst.

its great on here to get the support even from just reading other peoples posts, and it does wonders for putting things in perspective too.

thanks again. take care of you. xx ><>


update... the painters finished (? not quite) the renovation room but weren't in there today. the cleaners did clean the office that my desk is in, the foyer and reception cubby. however they havent cleaned the stairs or corridor or the renovation area at all.

although others say they cant smell the dust and the paint, my lungs can feel them. even a furniture removal man wondered why he was getting chesty and having a tickly throat moving furntiure along the corridor from the foyer to a totally different part of the building. he stated he isnt asthmatic! he even asked if it was asbestos. i told him that as far as i know the estates team did an Asbestos check before the work took place. he didnt look too sure! bless him. (building was originally built in 1938, and the wall they pulled down was an original retaining wall complete with oxgyen pipes for the birthing theatre!)

i had a good PEF of 430 on leaving home (best is 450), within an hour it had dropped to 400, by lunchtime i nearly coughed up my dinner, dropping to 370 after the massive coughing fit. oh and again after a 10min phone conversation with telecom company, think he thought i was being off with him because i was so short sentenced. 4xdoses of blue later my PEF recovered to about 400.

spent all day at work yawning, feeling so tired, with SPo2 at 96. i came home at end of play (teatime) and since then PEF sitting at 430, with SPo2 at 99, stopped yawning but my chest feels like i've been squashed all day. now i know that none of this is extactly an asthma attack and merely just a PEF fall but this doesnt happen if i'm not exacerbated. how can i have a ""normal range"" PEF and yet feel symptomatic? (taking seretide now for about 2 weeks)

My manager did not ask how i was. met me twice for two half hour meetings regarding the work he wants me to do this week. did not tune in so once again i had to repeat myself, making me need to talk more than necessary. i have arranged an asthma nurse appointment for my lunch period thursday. have told manager and he didnt even ask why i think i need one! have told manager that i had a bad weekend (attack yesterday while trying to cook Sunday Roast) and therefore i am tired. all he said was that he was tired too!

i havent rung Occy Health again as i was too busy and too tired today, but i think i should.

will battle on and see how i go. Good luck to anyone else struggling with work and asthma, my heart goes out to you as well.

take care xx ><>


I totally understand how you feel! I have quite bad asthma and Last year I had a severe asthma attack at work ( I was a waitress), and two of my managers told me (in their words) to have a glass of water, go outside and get over it. I told them that I had to get to hospital and still they ignored me and frowned upon me telling me just to get on with my work. This carried on for almost two hours of me desperately trying to calm down and using all of my medication but to no avail. Finally I stumbled out to the reception unable to talk and barely able to stay concious and the manager on the desk told me to go and sit in the office for 15 minutes in front of the fan and that that would help. I managed to communicate with her that i needed to get to hospital and fast! She agreed to drive me but it took a further 15 minutes to get out of the building. Because the attack was so severe and took ages to be seen to it caused me problems for the next month of work as I could barely breathe. I had to have a few days off over the month, i was made to feel guilty and patronised for this and they ended up firing me because I was having this bad spell of asthma which could have been easily prevented if they had listened to me. They didn't seem to understand how bad asthma really is and thought I was milking it! I was so angry about the way they treated me and think that awareness really needs to be portrayed to employers!


Reading your post sounds so familiar so i'm sorry but i have no advice for you, just to say that you aren't alone.

My work place like yours is far from understanding, i work in a well known cinema chain as a Supervisor and have issues with certain cleaning products and alcohol gel which the staff use on prep areas, i also have an issue with staff spraying deoderants and bodysprays midway through their shifts. I Brought it to the attention of management that it was causing me problems so they did a slide in the monthly staff meeting with my name at the top with all the products that were affecting me, bascially saying "" we all know that these are a problem so don't use excessively"" ( was VERY embarassing) I have to say the staff have been great, its just management thats the problem. They seem to think that a couple of puffs of my blue inhaler and i'm fine, doesn't work like that. Hope things improve for you


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