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Mild Asthma causes confusion!

Hi there!

I'm new to this site and new to asthma and am having a hard time coming to terms with it and understanding what is wrong with me.

I had a spirometry test at the docs which came back normal but my symptoms said otherwise so was first started on ventolin, since then my symptoms seem to be getting more frequent so I've been stepped up on medication so apparently now I'm on step 3. What does this mean?

My symptoms are tight chest and shortness of breath and a cough but to be honest it doesn't really stop me doing anything, I get out of puff going up the stairs/walking to shops so need a minute to get my breath back, but thats about it. So I don't feel its that bad at all, however I get these symptoms 3-5 times a day, every day of the week which is why the nurse said I needed to step up treatment, but even she said it was only mild asthma. My peak flow is generally within 20% of my personal best (allbeit up and down) which far exceeds my predicted value. And looking on the internet your asthma needs to be bad (<80%) to be on step 3 so why am I there?

I wondered if its maybe just in my head and so have tried stopping taking the ventolin when I get a tight chest and let my body sort it out. Is this bad? Am I really at risk of having an asthma attack? I've never had an asthma attack before, surely if its only mild asthma I won't have one will I?

I'm getting confused and worried that it's all in my head and I'm taking medication that I don't need, can anyone please offer any advice?


9 Replies


I was diagnosed year ago and thought it was only mild, and not helped by the fact that at uni I lived with lots of smokers! I never thought it was a major problem, had exacerbations when I got infections and had an asthma attack maybe once a year! Symptoms were mainly coughing and chest tightness. I don't always wheeze!

So I got lazy and didn't take my medications (which were also step 3 - Seretide and Ventolin as needed!)

However; I'm having more of a problem in 2010; I've just had my third course of steroids this year and have already had 2 exacerbations.

It is difficult to acknowledge that treatment has to be continued year round for something that happens quite infrequently, but I am starting to find some more triggers and think that the problems I've had this year may have been prevented if I'd been better at taking my inhalers! You sort of 'adjust' to always coughing etc and this becomes the 'norm'!

I guess we need to learn that this is not the norm and things can get better!


Hello and welcome!

I would not worry too much about labels like Mild asthma, I am not sure if there are really hard and fast definitions which everyone sticks too. A few years ago when I was on step 3 I would have described myself as a mild asthmatic (if that helps).

The step of treatment that you need to be on is determined by more factors than peak flow, such as frequency of daytime symptoms, nightime symptoms etc. The aim should be for you to have well controlled asthma with minimal symtoms.

Have you tried phoning the (excellent) Asthma UK adviceline? They could help you with your questions and give you ideas of what to ask your GP/asthma nurse. Also make sure that you have a proper action plan so you know what to do when your asthma gets worse.

Hope this helps.



Hi and welcome,

what label you use to describe your asthma isn't universal but how it's treated is and if you read the BTS guidelines on the diagnosis and management of asthma, here is a PDF of the full guidelines tinyurl.com/yfy8qje currently under review though.

At the point I was diagnosed i never thought mine was too bad, but I'm now treated to stage 4, is it a problem, well no because it controls the symptoms most of the time, although peakflows tell a different story but I seem to cope and do lots of sports without too much of a problem.

Your symptoms are the same as mine, and if you read the guidelines you'll see that good control is to eliminate daily symptoms regardless of any tests or labels you think has been assigned to your asthma.


hi! I.m in a very similar position to yourself so i kinda know where you.re coming from but as the others have said, its not about how bad your asthma is, its about how controlled it is, and at the minute its not controlled at all! I've just been stepped up to stage 3 treatment but am waiting to see effects, only been on seretide for 4 days. As for not taking your ventolin, i think you should take it when you first get the symptoms otherwise you.re taking a lottery as your next set of symptoms might turn into your first asthma attack. Also agree that AUK have been very useful, definately worth a call.


Hi BooBoo, I've also been recently diagnosed and am on stage 3 treatment regime. As others have said, its not about mild/moderate/severe, its about being as free from symptoms as possible. It is hard to take in though the whole idea that you have a long term condition that you will need to take medication for, for the rest of your life. But the good news is that it can be treated, although you will read on here about people for who unfortunately, finding the right treatment and staying well is harder because of the severity of their condition/medical management.

I'm feeling much better on my current meds (although my asthma nurse has suggested changing them to cut down the number of inhalers/puffs I take each day) but until recently I was reluctant to take my ventolin if I felt tight chested or was coughing/breathless, as I felt that the symptoms would settle on their own, my diagnosis wasn't confirmed and that to take ventolin was like admitting defeat. Now, when I get the occasional symptom, I puff away so I feel better quickly. I've also cut back on monitoring my PF as my symptoms are a better guide and I am only checking if I feel a bit rough. Ultimatley I have asthma but I am choosing to live with it rather than ""live it"".

Keep taking your meds, and talk to your GP/asthma nurse until you feel you have enough information to understand YOUR asthma and the confidence to manage it.

Best wishes, Sonja


Hi Booboo, I'm also new to it and share/shared quie s few of the feelings you describe.

I've learned, as the other posters here have said, that it's all part of getting used to the idea of managing your condition, in a way that suits you. But managing is the thing - if you're getting symptoms frequently it's not much fun, so you could maybe go back to the nurse/dr to see if there's anything else you could be doing.


Hi. Usually my spirometry results send the nurse to check with the doctor that I really do have asthma and my peak flow doesn't change dramatically but I know if it gets down to 430 I'm not havimg a good day.

The tightness is your body telling you to take care. I would definitely ring the asthma UK nurse or talk to the asthma nurse at your doctor's if there is one.


Hi Everyone, thank you all for you friendly works and helpful advice. I guess I just need a bit of time coming to terms with my diagnosis, I never have anything wrong with me so to admit I have a potentially lifelong condition is hard to grasp. I guess I should just get on and take the Ventolin when I first need it too, afterall thats what its there for!



I just wanted to say that I can totally relate to where you're coming from. I was diagnosed with moderate asthma, and have always been treated quite well with a good level of meds by an allergist, then I got sent to a few lung specialists who keep telling me my asthma is ""mild"" because my spirometry is normal. However, I get symptoms all the time!

""At the point I was diagnosed i never thought mine was too bad, but I'm now treated to stage 4, is it a problem, well no because it controls the symptoms most of the time, although peakflows tell a different story but I seem to cope and do lots of sports without too much of a problem.""

So I can really relate to this. And it was just so good to hear people saying that it's not about the severity label, but whether you feel your asthma is in control, and that you can lead your life with it being more of a companion side thing that can be managed with some daily care. Thanks. I needed to hear that today.



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