Log in
Asthma UK community forum
12,192 members18,122 posts

how can i make my work understand?

I think i may have posted a similar post before but i really do not know what to do to make my work understand how serious asthma can be etc. they seem to find it funny etc. I think because i take panic attacks as well they get confused and see them as the same but really they are not at all - in a way i can link them if i am stressed and take a panic attack and start to hyperventilate i can take an asthma attack but if i take an asthma attack it is SERIOUS it is NOT A JOKE and the mojority of the time it is not caused by stress.

Yesterday my asthma came on and after half an hour i was still struggling and was getting no better i tried to tell the managers who was just do what you need to do and walked off, i then explained through struggling to talk that i needed to go to hospital to which they replied on you go. I nearlly collappsed in the corrider (yes i was walking to the nearest taxi rank to get a taxi to casualty), I then had to attempt to call an ambulance from my phone but didn't have a signal by this time another collegue waked along and tried to find a first aider (they've all been giving the same weeks holiday!!) and another of my collegues with a car offered to drive me a drop me off.

I've aready been to the store manager about this and he has told me they can't do that but they have over and over again but they justcan't dea with it and i am so so so so scared i am going to have serious consequences beause of it, anything could have happened on my way to taxi rank or phoing myself is really bad when undreds of people are about.

What can i do? or am i over reacting?


25 Replies

you are most defiinately not over recting. Companies should not behave like this any shape or form. (crikey-I sound Like My dad)

The only thing I can think of right now is trade union but my grey matter is Fuzzy Cuz I have been up sine 3:30am aus time and it is now 17:46 nz time so my head hurts. Will think of more later.


thanks elephant, good to know i'm not over reacting its just known what to do. I went in for a few hours today but no senior managers or union reps were in so didn't get chance to speak to anyone.. I am getting really worried though that maybe i am expeting too much and maybe i should just quit, i don't know i just need to come up with a plan of what exactly to do. I'm just upset with it all, i actully think i'm heading for a bad cold as well arghhhh!!!!!!!


Hi Laurenjayne,

Don't quit your job just yet! There are lots of things your work can and should do to accomodate you.

They have to make reasonable changes to your working conditions if your asthma is being exacerbated by something at work. They also have to try to keep you safe if you have an attack at work. Maybe you need to sit down with them at a time when you are not having an attack, and make it clear exactly what to do in each situation - eg - 'if I am breathless I need to take my reliever and sit down for 10 minutes'; 'if I am still breathless and having difficulty talking after 10 minutes I need an ambulance.' Remember that not everyone is aware of how to treat asthma or what the danger signs are; even some first aiders, depending on their level of qualification, may not be fully aware. For example, a lot of people don't realise that not being able to talk is a bad sign.

People to speak to - managers and union reps, as people have mentioned; Occupational Health if the company has one; your own doctor, who may be able to write a letter to your boss; the company first aider; the Citizen's Advice Bureau for advice on your rights.

Be aware that if you just quit you may lose out on entitlements to benefits, as you might be deemed to have intentionally made yourself unemployed.

Hope you find some solutions. This site has lots of leaflets and info you can download about asthma in general and work and asthma - you might find that it helps to download some and take it with you to show your boss.

Take care

Em H


Hi again EmilyH,

Thanks for that reply, it does make sense - you really know lots and lots as you've ansered plenty of my posts - thank you!!!

Its just knowing how to approach them and knowing what to say as i'm worried i will seem totally paranoid. I speak to the first-aiders a fair bit but its basics of how i prefer to deal with my attacks, where i keep my emergency bag (Spare inhalers - eve tho i carry two on me at all times - , spacer, list of medications and info if i do need to go to hosptal as easier than explaining to paramedics.dr's/nurses when struggling to speak etc, and an asthma attack card.)

Its just a difficult situation, they said at work today that they've heard my breathing noisier and i've been ok but its trying to explain i was struggling to breathe but it was quieter and i couldn't really talk which for me is serious.


I just don't now what to do.



Dont give up work yet!

i have been in similar situations and that was in the NHS, but now i work in a much smaller place as you in retail and my collegues dont really understand, they do laugh sometimes which can be hard, they usually just say 'tell us when to call an ambulance!' that is fine, but i had the boss with me once who came with me on the bus to st thomas' but as it was london marathon we were diverted she left me at the bus stop a long way from the a+e , not much help, she just didnt understand.

work is such a pleasure for me, i enjoy being back in the working population again, i only do 2 days a week on the income support permitted work scheme, and from a psycologocal aspect gives me a reason to get up in the morning, my job is not nursing, my profession., but is working,

you do have options, keep fighting and get support, occie health should be able to help, have you got some of asthma uk stuff, that may help,

george x


Hi, Its Michael, Liz's husband here.

It sounds like the main problem is lack of understanding rather than a wish to treat you badly. Please persevere and don't let this force you out of work. The asthma charter may help. Try to talk to whoever you need to to sort things out.If things are just impossible ask about the company's grievance procedure. They should have one. If you work for a chain of stores be prepared to go higher if you cannot get satisfaction locally.

If you are in a state where you need an ambulance please do not hesitate to call them. Don't wait as it will probably only get worse. Liz has both asthma and epilepsy (and an asthma attack can trigger a seizure). Last time she had an ambulance it them an hour to calm her down enough to get her in the ambulance. After about 3 hours she went home from A+E feeling very tired but was back at work next day. Although she still has a number of issues outstanding the issue of getting help for her medical conditions is fortunately not one of them.

Persevere, try to discuss it locally, preferably not while you are having an attack and get someone to phone 999 rather then looking for alternatives when things are bad. If you cannot get a satisfactory resolution then take it through the proper channels.



Thanks for your replies - that makes a lot of sense.

I've poken to my union rep, health and safety rep and personnel Manager who have all agreed that they need to help me more if i am having a bad attack. My own line manager is now back from holiday and i had a chat with her today and feel a bit better. The PM and H&S Rep both spoke to all managers at a meeting yesterday and explained that in a way they were putting my life in danger and they need to phone me an ambulance if required rather thn leaving it to me and the main first-aider who i deal with (Who is fantastic, and sadly was on holiday last week) is actually leaving but is helping them plan to train a few more people so in those situations thay have someone who is better trained in getting help and in a way understands more the seriiousness of it.

Sadly i have a meeting tomorrow to look at my attendance which they are not happy about but i've actually only been off three times in past six months and one of those was for going to hospital so hopefully i will not get into any trouble for that.

Lauren xx



Michael again

We now have a whole new area to discuss

If your time off is disability related (your asthma would appear to be a disability under the DDA) you could be entitled to ""reasonable adjustments"" which could include additional time off. Any time Liz has off due to her disabilities is not subject to her employers normal absence monitoring systems although they still have the right to look at it if it is a problem.

Hope your meeting goes well




Well I had my attendence meeting the other day and was asked lot and lots of questions about my asthma they kind of annoyed me though as they wanted to know why I don't have a consultant, why I've enver had allergy testing before or spirometrey. It annoys me as really they have no knowledge of asthma so they can not judge.

They then decided to give me ""Next Steps"" one of which is refer me to Occupational Health for them to write to my doctor again - this I don't know why as a big detailed letter was written a year ago that covered both my asthma and panic attacks and even states I could be prone to ba patches at different times of the year etc.

Secondly if I need an ambulance for my asthma i need to get the duty manager or someone to get the duty manager so they can call it - on some occassions when i have needed to go home sick I have had to wait around while feeling awful for a long time so personally I don't feel this is a good thing - I believe any manager or first-aider or anyone really shold be able to get me help.

Today I took a pretty bad attack at work, I cough a lot during my attacks and can't use MDI's & really really struggle with my easi-breathe even and was really struggling to inhale salbutamol (though someone was away for my spacer etc or ""my asthma kit"" as i cal it). My breathing was awful, I was hunched over struggling to breathe as my chest was so tight& couldn't string and sentence together. The manager walked past and made no comment - I did have a first-aider sitting next to me.(if i had went on any longer like that I would have needed hosp, part of me thinks i should of went but I always worry I am panicking too much and get worried paramedics etc will think i'm wasting there time. After i used my Spacer quite a few times I was much better apart form the racing heart and shaking but I aid to the first-aider I'd rather go to one of the offices for some privacy (I work in a supermarket and i got off the shop floor but was in the door way so customers etc could see me and this makes me paranoid!)

I didn't feel good at all but I was breathing and could talk away so was in the office and the duty manager came in and said to me ""will i phone the ambulance now then? ""

I just don't understand how someone could leave me in the state i was the other day and walk past when i was that bad during my attack and ignore yet when i'm breathing okay offer to call one - it does not make sense!!!

Now for something bizzare, I can't quite remember but I think I may have fallen on my foot as i am really struggling to walk and its really sore!! I'm kinda hoping it goes away tho!!! arghh!!!!

anyhow i've prob bored and confused you all so bye!!



Hi Lauren,

I don't know that much about the ins & outs of management & Occy Health (Last saw an OH in 1990!). I think all the questions were quite relevant - they were trying to get an idea about how your asthma is controled eg GP or Consultant. It will be a good idea to See and keep in contact with the OH department as they can then feedback to management on how to cater for your needs when you are not well. It may highlight that you asthma is not well controlled and this can be addressed.

Panic attacks can often give the wrong message to many people and then this leads to people not taking you seriously - have you had any help with managing them? It can be a vicious circle with asthma as if you are being ignored, you may panic and this can excaserbate the asthma. I would speak to you GP and Asthma nurse (If you haven't already) - perhaps Singulair will help you too as you have asked about that on another thread. (It is an anti-leukotriene drug which taken every night helps dampen down the inflamation - works wonders for some people but can have initial side effects - bear with these if your asthma is better!)

Regards ambulances - the FA should not have to ask a manager before calling one!

Call first tell them after or send someone else to tell them that one has been called.

I think if you continue to be ill at work on a regular basis people are going to be complacent about it - this is not a good situation. Your asthma needs to be more controled, you need to sort out the panic attacks too and your work needs to be sure that they are not causing the problem either.

Hope this helps a bit! ( and I hope it hasn't come over wrong!)



Thanks for that Kate. I just think because my Asthma is so bad at the moment I am having lots of attacks and I do make them worse by Panicing but thankfully I Panic so much less than I used to. Even the ASthma Attacks re less.

There was a stage last year when I was taking nearly an attack of some sort or other daily and at the moment there can be a week or two between them. Obviously this is not ideal because it does still have an impact etc but it is really minimal.

I can understand why they want to write to my doctor again but part of me just thinks they have all the information and in a way its taking me away from my own job more. I'll speak to OH though as last time they were great, a certain department at work really wasn't suiting me and they have moved me into the ideal job in a way.

Hopefully this new tablet will work well for my Asthma, I am worried about side effects now but i'm sure if i keep at it they will work, I know the medication for my panic attacks which i've been on and off a few times gave me awful side effects and first time I gave up and allowed myself to be off sick where as last few times i've been coping with them, its not easy but I manage it.

My doc/Nurse have also had my referrell to what is known as ""The Stress Centre"" hurried up and gave them my mobile to arrang ean appointment next week as they do believe relaxation etc will help me as stress is one of my main triggers. It weill be good to try some alternative therapies.

I chatted to the first-aider who dealt with me today and he said that basically he'd get closest person to him to call an ambulance then find duty manager as its not practical. He could technically get into trouble for not following procedure but says all first-aiders will argue that they acted in my best interests as if I am having a severe attack I need help NOW. Its choosing when to go when i'm at my work though as they want me to make the decision and i've tried to explain that I might not be in any fit state to make a decision. In a way though it is all a ""What If"" situation and may never happen but in a way i'd rather be planned for it just incase. Does that make sense?


I might have said this already, but I think you need to put it in writing what your triggers are, what the signs are that you are having an asthma attack (rather than a panic attack), what the treatment is and what the threshold for going to hospital is.

Give a copy to your manager, one to each first aider and one to be kept in your personnel file.

In terms of making the decisions - I always tell family and friends, very simply - if I can talk in sentences, do as I say. If I can't talk in sentences or seem in any way confused, incoherant or drowsy, call an ambulance. I find that's a fairly good way of allowing them to distinguish fairly simply between a moderate attack and a severe one. Occasionally when I have been with people who I don't know too well, I have had ambulances called for me before I would normally have called one (I think it's happened twice) - but annoying as it is, I would far rather it happened that way around than the other way around.

Take care

Em H


Hi peeps!

Thats a really good idea EmilyH (and you hven't mentioned it before to my knowledge) - I'll def speak to my work about letting me do that (prob after i've typed it up) because at least then they have all the info they need written down.

I actually got a bit of a lecture at the hosp today about not going in with my asthma attack yesterday, they were saying to me if I am as bad as that I should be in hosp.

My prob with going to hospital is I get really anxious about a&e and Ambulances as i'm always worried they'l think they shouldn't be called. I think though if i am acting confused and my inalors are not working then other people can make the decision for me and call anyway even if i do say no.

I think what i'm going to say is if i can't talk in proper sentences, hunnched over and confused and if my inhalors are not working i should be going to the hospital but i'm going to think about it more.

anyway i don't think i'm making sense as i'm over tired!



You're making perfect sense - and your criteria for calling an ambulance seem perfectly appropriate. One thing I would add to your protocol, given that panic (understandably) seems to be a quite significant part of how you respond to these attacks, is that the first aider or whoever should move you to a quiet environment as soon as you are able. The last thing you need is lots of customers and colleagues peering at you with interest. If there is a managers office or something you can use, so much the better. There should really only be the first aider and one other person (to fetch help if needed) present - unless of course you have a friend there that you would like to be present.

It can be useful, and another thing to discuss with work, to have a place that you can go - again, an office or similar - where you are not too far away from the others at your work but you are able to be alone if needed. That way, if you feel a panic attack coming on, you can take yourself off to somewhere private where it will probably be easier to calm yourself down. I am not sure how you feel your work will respond to that idea, but I do think it is important, and probably falls within the realm of the 'reasonable changes to your working environment' that your employers are obliged to make in accordance with the laws laid down in the Disability Discrimination Act.

I know hospitals can be scary places - I think they probably make us all panic a bit, I am not sure I believe anyone who says they can have an acute attack and go in and not be a bit nervous, however used to it they are. The trouble is, as you probably know only too well, panicking has a horrible habit of making the asthma worse, especially if you are hyperventilating, which then makes the panic worse, and you get into that whole nasty downward spiral which you are probably only too familiar with and which is very hard to break out of.

There are a few things you can do to help yourself. I don't know if you've tried breathing techniques from a physiotherapist - they can be really useful although speak to your doctor first as some of the ones they commonly teach for hyperventilation may not be appropriate for all asthma patients.

Relaxation techniques can be really really helpful - I find them to be very useful. The key thing, though, is to do them regularly all the time - when you are not feeling particularly tense. It is very difficult to concentrate and focus enough during a time of panic to do these relaxation exercises, if you are not used to doing them regularly. If you are used to doing them regularly when not feeling panicky, it will become second nature to 'switch it on' when you are having a panic attack or an asthma attack.

This is the technique I use, which was taught to me many years ago by a psychotherapist. I have since taught it to many patients with great success for the most part.

Choose a time when you are not constrained by having to go out at a certain time or get up to do the housework; a time when you have some spare uninterrupted time on your hands.

Find a quite, calm, comfortable environment where you can be on your own, such as your living room or bedroom.

Sit reclining in a chair or lie on the bed, which ever you find most comfortable.

If you like, put some non-word based music on - whether that be classical music, pan pipes or 'whale noise' or white noise, whatever you find most soothing as long as it doesn't have lyrics.

Do anything else that you can to alter the environment to make it more calming - whether that means dimming the lights, turning a lava lamp on, whatever.

You can keep your eyes open or closed, whatever is most useful.

Take a few deep breaths in and out as you begin your relaxation, focussing on how it feels to fill your lungs with air.

Now begin to focus on each part of your body sequentially, starting with your big toes and working up slowly. For each body part, tense the muscles for a few seconds, then make a conscious effort to relax them again.

Work all the way up to the muscles in your neck, face, and scalp, taking your time and not rushing - if you are doing it properly it should take 15 to 20 minutes to do your whole body.

During the exercise you should not specifically be making a conscious effort to regulate or change your breathing, but you should find that it will naturally slow down and become deeper.

When you have done your whole body, just lie there for a few minutes and try to concentrate on how relaxed you feel - seek out particular points of muscular tension in your body and make a conscious effort to tense and relax them again - you will find in time that you become much more in tune with your body and where the areas of tension are.

If you want to, you can then repeat the exercise a second time.

After you have finished, it is normal to feel drowsy and a little disorientated for a few minutes. Don't rush headlong back into day-to-day activities; sit down, have a cup of tea or whatever, and allow your brain to reorientate itself.

Do this as often as you can, when you are already feeling relatively calm. Preferably do it every day - although since we all have busy lives these days, doing it occasionally is better than not at all. You will find more benefit the more you do it, though. Aim for at least 2 - 3 times a week.

If you find it difficult to stay focused on this technique at first, do bear with it, it does get easier. One thing that can be helpful is to record you or someone else saying the instructions out loud with the appropriate time period for each one - 'now tense your toes - and hold it for five, four, three, two, one - and relax... now tense your ankles - and hold it for five, four, three, two, one - and relax...' and so on. Then when you are doing the exercise, listen to the tape to keep you focussed.

When you have got more practiced at it, you will find that it is easier to 'switch it on' almost automatically when you are having an asthma attack or a panic attack. Focusing on the different muscles helps to distract you from your breathing and from the likely fuss that is going on around you. Obviously, be safe and make sure help is on its way if needed before you start in on this technique.

I know when you are in hospital and people are fussing around you, doing things like getting you into a gown, wiring you up, giving you nebs, cannulas, blood gases etc, it can be extremely difficult to relax or to focus on anything other than your breathing and the apparent chaos around you. This technique can help then, if you can focus enough to do it, as it will not only be calming in itself but will distract you from what is going on around you. Try to focus inwards, on every different part of the body, rather than focusing on what is happening around you and on the fact that you are struggling to breath. Sometimes, once I am wired up and everything, and have got nebs, IV amino and so on running, if my clinical condtion is reasonable enough to make it safe, I will ask (or Alex will ask on my behalf) for the medical and nursing staff to step back and just keep an eye on me from afar for a few minutes, to give me some peace and quiet to try to get on top of my breathing. It doesn't always work - and of course they can't afford to take ten minutes to leave me be doing nothing for me if it is a bad one - but sometimes it can be really helpful.

As I'm sure you are aware, there aren't any magic answers, but I have certainly found the things I have mentioned to be useful both for myself and for patients in the past. I do hope you have some luck in getting to grips with these things and with getting work to understand the situation - I am sure you will get there, but it can be a difficult road. Don't give up though. If you are really struggling with the panic attacks, ask your GP about counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, if you haven't already - it is a bit variable from place to place as to whether you can get it on the NHS and how long you would have to wait, but it can be helpful.

Hope this helps

Em H


Forgot to add - never get worried about calling an ambulance unnecessarily, you may come across the occasional paramedic or member of staff in A&E who might be a little stropy if they think you have done that, but most will be absolutely fine with it and will realise you were just trying to do your best to keep yourself safe.

It is far better to risk calling an ambulance when it might not be strictly necessary than to risk not calling an ambulance when you need one.



thanks for that.

My work already have a room that is only used occasionally so a lot of the time i can go into it if i need a few minutes or so just on my own to chill, relax and work on my breathing and it does help.

Most of the first-aiders are good enough to ask people to leave - one even told the manager to leave once as he thought that was making me worse. I have told them that i get really worked up with people looking at me so they are good at stopping that. Most times i can at least get myself to the warehouse of the shop so only staff will see me as i can deal with that a lot better than customers and once i am calm they will get me downstairs (by lift) to one of the offices although not as soon a si'd like at tmes but i know they are just being careful as by this stage i am extremely shaky.

what got me on friday though was i kept hunching right over and was not my normal siting upright and i really do not know why i did this.

Lauren xx


I worked for Tesco for over 3 years and i know how you feel. I got alot of sick form them as well. Like ""What anothere one"" But in the end with talking to my Con Gp and at my wellcome back meetings we got things some what sorted . But they have never put it in to next step. It has taken me over a year to make them understand. And i even got the "" Oh i have asthma, i got the blue and brown inhaler. I know how you feel.""

NO you dont, I could go on and on but i better not.


I hope it works out ok for you.

Hugs Kaz


Hi Laurenjayne

I am having the similar problems to you at work at the monent, I recently applied for a full time position (mon-thurs) after being supply staff for ages and I eplained that I needed tp have fridays off due to 5 days being to much and at first they were really understanding and helpful, but even though I haven't taken any sick days since becomming full time they have become really unhelpful when it comes to my asthma.

It has been really bad for the last week or so due to a cold like virus I picked up and my manager hasn't given me anywhwre to keep my spacer etc and she and other staff have seen me having loads of coughing fits in last few days and no one has asked if i'm ok or need a break. and every time I mention that my asthma is bad they either ignore me or try and compete with me, so i really do understand where you're comming from

I have found that alot of people at my work don't seem to understand how serious asthma can be, they seem to think that it's just about taking the 'blue' one every now and again!



bit confused


I just hate workplaces and peoples attitudes - really i do.

I had a job interview yesterday and yes they asked did i have any medical probs, i was quite honest but explained my time management and organisation means if i do have a problem i can afford a few minutes etc etc. My own manager at work today was asking me if i eally was honest as in her opinion she wouldn't employ me - i mean i am employed and i'm not being big headed but i do a fantastic job according to the senior managers and thats what i am told in my reviews etc.

They are also going on about re-arranging the structure off staff and that because i am so limited because of my ""disability"" i may need to be let go - it is not a disability it is a medical condition that is dealt with it does not stop me working.

Kaz, what did you arrange when you worked at tesco?

I do all i can for them, i work when i should be off sick no matter what it is, even this week i have a spraned foot and i'm hopping around the shop to do my work when i hold be off sick.

I just feel like i'm eing discriminated against with lots of sarcastic remarks esp from managers etc - what can i do?


hi i have worked for tesco

get your union rep involed if you do not like the one in store get hold of your local office for the union.

they have to make adjustment for you to do your job,

when you have meeting have some one sit in with you like a rep or a friend, to give you suport.

if you can not do the job they employed you to do they have to try and fine you a job in the store to do

but be carefull tesco can be diffcult, i am sorry to say

if you need more help

pm me and i give an more ideals to help you



I am so stressed out you really would not believe at all!!

I asked my work today if i could go home sick as my foot was killing me - was told if i went home because of my recent attendence with my asthma etc i'd be taking to a disciplinary as attendence getting worse not better - which to be honest is enough to cause me to take an attack.

I went to hospital after my shift and i have actually broken my foot (at work when i fell during an asthma attack two weeks ago) and i am ow signed off and been told a job prob won't be waiting for me when i return - its so unfair.

no union reps available and i am so stressed - asthma is seriuous and so is my broken foot that i've walked on for two weeks!


I went back to work today after two weeks off and i hate it.

I went back part-time and they seem to think i can do a full-time job in those hours and are just being sarcastic about my health especially my own line manager - i just feel she thinks my health probems are a total joke.

I spoke to one of the other line managers and he is going to try and get in touch with a Personnel Manager for me as i am that embaressed of my asthma etc that its got the stage i am pretendin i'm not taking attacks at work - there is just no way forward.


Bouncing post to top - hope it helps becky_m80 !!


Bumping to the top for Al - see my description of relaxation techniques


I have done the same exercises and they do work. Lauren Jayne maybe best to get out of there and find something else, I know it not easy but it seems they are making you worse? If you broke your foot while in work did you fill in the accident book, do it as soon as you can?


You may also like...