Had asthma for years, suddenly getting worse, advice on coping?


I've had very mild asthma for 20 years. It's rarely been a problem, but has suddenly got much worse. I'm seeing a doctor, but I hardly sleep for coughing, I live alone and I'd welcome some advice. Will try to keep post short-ish.

I just had a chest infection last week and expected a ramp up in symptoms, but nothing like this. For four days I've been coughing, unable to sleep, struggling to breathe. I was on a flight yesterday evening and had same problem, inhaler was in the luggage rack during take off, and I had to get the flight attendent to help. She was clearly worried and told me I had gone quite white, so when I got home (after two more attacks) I went to A&E for the first time. They were going to put me on a nebulizer, but when I said I had a poor reaction to Ventolin (I get bad shakes, panic and feel sick) they decided not to. They gave me steroids instead, and I've had one dose so far. Today I went to my doctor, who didn't seem too concerned, though finally after asking for something different to Ventolin for years, I was given Bricanyl. He also gave me antibiotics for the chest infection.

My question is, how do I know when I need extra help? I think I did the right thing yesterday, but I still feel breathless and I'm having coughing attacks where I really need my reliever. I have always worried about being 'worried well' or a hypochondriac, but I live alone and I got quite scared last night, when having been to A&E, I came home and couldn't sleep for coughing and breathlessness until about 5 am. Is this normal? Should I expect it to go down with the meds I have, or should I have made more of a fuss?

And does anyone have suggestions for getting to sleep, especially when pumped up on all these meds? :S

Sorry for such a long post, have been lurking all day in an attempt to find answers.


3 Replies

  • Evening Hoppingbunny

    Sorry your Asthma has been rather scary, being on your own and struggling to breath is frightening, so don't feel silly because you are not. Obviously you haven't been in this situation before, does your GP Practice run Asthma Clinics, if so get him to refer you, and between you and the nurse who runs discuss your worries and hopefully ease your fears.

    During the night or at any time for that matter should you feel that your Asthma is not settling or getting worse, please seek medical advice straight away, and if you cannot get to a GP just get yourself to A & E pronto. In respect of sleeping not easy when you are breathless, some people are helped if slightly elevated on a couple of extra pillows or sleeping in a comfortable armchair. As for feeling wired when taking steriods, that's an unfortunate side effect many of us on here will understand, I take steriods every day anyway, but when I am on high doses I sleep very little, rather than trying to sleep and failing miserably I either read or go find something to do that won't make my asthma worse, so in my case I will usually get creative and go make some jewellery. I just try and channel some of that annoying energy into something positive. Chat to the Asthma Nurses at AUK, they are a very friendly lot in the mean time about any specific medical worries you might have until you can talk to someone at your own medical practice, get well soon.



  • Hi HoppingBunny,

    Sorry to hear that you're going through a rough patch. I find sleeping propped up with a few pillows helps when things are bad, although it might be difficult to get very much sleep!

    It's a bit of a difficult post to answer otherwise, as we can't give emergency advice on the forum. If you're worried and things appear to be getting worse, or not getting better, then it's sensible to get help (GP, out-of-hours-service, A&E or 999 as appropriate see link) especially as you're living on your own and this is a first bad exacerbation.


    which points to:


    Also ask your GP for a personal action plan so that you know when to get help in future.

    Hope you start feeling better soon,

    Ginny x

  • Ginny, Katrina,

    Thanks for your replies, which helped. After a few days on medication, I'm improving and feeling much less scared, and I have had a number of the Asthma UK leaflets sent to me, which are really useful. Still not sleeping all that well, but not having the coughing in the same way, which is a huge relief. Bricanyl - so far - is showing far fewer side effects than Ventolin was.

    Should have done this years ago and am kicking myself for not taking this more seriously.

    Thanks again,


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