Why am I so embarrassed by asthma???

Hi all, it's daft I know but I have such a hang up about asthma and find it so embarrassing. I am getting better at telling people I suffer from it but I just can't bring myself to use my inhaler in front of them. I was out today playing in a golf comp and I've been feeling a bit under the weather and half way thru we were climbing up a bit of a hill when my chest got really tight and I was really short of breath. I didn't have an inhaler with me coz I never carry one (tut tut I know) but when I was asked if I was ok I just replied with 'i must have a virus or something'. I struggled til I got back to my car where I do keep an inhaler and used it then but I wish I didn't feel so embarrassed.

Does anyone else feel like this at all?

Smithy x

40 Replies

  • Hi Smithy.

    I completely understand where you're coming from. I have suffered for many years now. I still feel very self conscious about anyone seeing me use my inhalers, nebs and more so my oxygen.

    I can't fully understand why I have these insecureties. I think partly it is to do with not wanting to be treared differently or as an ill person. (I still get offended when asked if I am ok!!!) I think the other part of it is to do with the general stigma attached to being an asthmatic and using an inhaler. It is so regularly portrayed in films etc as being more of an emotional/psychological problem suffered by over anxious people. It is then magically fixed by a quick squirt of the blue puffer and all is well again.

    I think until there is a greater public understanding of the different types of asthma and how they affect people, sufferers will continue to feel embaressed.

    I can only really say that you are not alone and that all on this forum understand where you are at.



  • Hi,

    Yeah i know what it's like to feel embarrassed about having to take inhalers in public, but then remind myself hey if you saw someone else use an inhaler you wouldn't feel odd about it or think that they should feel embarrassed. So now just tend to get on with it, as most people would rather that i did some thing about how unwell i was feeling rather than just suffer. I used to get more embarrassed when my asthma was less severe, but now isn't too big a deal for me as i am just looking after myself and i don't care what anyone else thinks.

    With the taking inhaler in public i either used to turn away from people when i was using it, say if i was outside, or go into a quieter room, even if it ended up being in the corridor or outside the toilets, just somewhere where others were not. It might be worthwhile keeping one in your golf bag, esp if you don't tend to carry one, so that if feeling unwell u know it's there.


  • I do feel like this a lot myself and still feel quite funny about taking my inhaler in places such as public transport and try to avoid it if possible.

    I think a lot of it comes from other peoples ignorance and attitudes towards asthma that I have encountered

  • hi

    yep ive always felt a bit daft taking an inhaler when out in public (and in front of some family members too). sometimes the way people look at you when you are showing no signs of an attack-maybe just having a tightness in the chest which cant be seen by others-its as though they think its put on-well thats how i feel anyway. even more stupid looking for me cos i find it difficult to use an inhaler without a spacer which makes me feel like a right pillick!...why dont you carry an inhaler with you at all times if your asthmatic?

  • Thanks for ur replies I'm glad it's not just me that feels like this. I rarely carry an inhaler because I very rarely need it. Famous last words I know but I just got out of the habit of carrying one everywhere I go.

  • I used to go to the toilet to use it. As i used to feel really silly using mine and like i was showing a weakness or something.


  • I also didnt like using my inhaler with people around but its their problem not mine now and

    use it alot with out a second thought x

  • your not alone, i switched from a turbhaler to a accuhaler and the first thing that crossed my mind was the size of the inhaler and how am i gonna stash that up my sleeve when i dash to the ladies toilet to use it.

    i had to use it once on a train home and a lady was staring at it - and i just thought whatever..i cant breathe not bothered. Smithy, carry that inhaler - its more embarrasing to have a blue in the face wheezy asthma attack!

  • I find it depends who im with.

    With some friends i am perfectly comfortable with, others i just don't want them fussing over me.

    they dont always seem to understand that just cos im using my inhaler doesnt mean im about to have a massive attack.

    The other thing is seeing as my family arent really used to my asthma, by the time it came back at 14 i was old enough to manage my own meds. And i tend to hide it completely from them. not sure they know what to do if i had an attack...which is a tad silly really. but its what happens.

  • It's been interesting reading every ones replies about being embarrassed using their inhalers in public and one thread coming from this seems to be the ""ignorance"" of some people who maybe do not have anyone on their family on asthma medication. Surely if we used our medication i.e. inhalers when we required then it would be an education in itself as it would show that using an inhaler doesn't always mean impending asthma attack requiring medical intervention. Shouldn't we lead the way in education and hopefully people will have a better understanding of asthma and the use of inhalers.

  • I know use a nebuliser instead of an inhaLer. Last year I bought a portable neb. We went with the kids to the science centre in Glasgow. I struggled wie the layout of the place an decided I had no choice but to use my neb. We got a few people starring then my son realised we where sitting at the start of the human body display. He said I was their living exhibit!!!! After that I just use it. Better having stares then having the looky looky crowd around the ambulance cos u didn't use it and had an asthma attack

  • hey :)

    I get embarrased when I have asthma attacks especially when I get quite um combative when they try to cannulate or take an abg, I get more embarrased when I'm with people I don't know. I didn't used to be so bad but when I started at 6th form I used to hate taking my meds in front on other people and would start crying when I had an attack cos I hated having to leave and I guess panicked a bit too cos I didn't want people to see me struggling to breathe. At college I try to use a mouthpiece when nebbing because if I have my mask on people stare and makes me feel even more embarrassed. The important thing to remember is that you have nothing to be ashamed of, asthma isn't your fault and it's better to ask for help sooner than later.


    simi x

  • I was very secretative about my asthma when I first started working (1980's) - I was worried about people at work knowing in case it held back promotion! I'd only been in my first proper job when I was hospitalised for a week with a major attack and off work for another 6 weeks. I was mortified to be asked by my then manager why I hadnt told them I was an asthmatic. I then asked for a transfer to another dept and was turned down on the grounds that head of that dept was also an asthmatic and off sick a lot, and they thought I would be the same. As it turned out, I did get a promotion but I had to move to another authority to get it. I always kept quiet about my asthma and used my inhaler away from colleagues.

    Now I couldnt care less who knows I have asthma and I use my blue inhaler whenever I need it. The ONLY person I dont like seeing me use it is my mother - she panics and starts going on at me about leading a more healthy lifestyle (more fruit n veg, not so may antibiotics etc).

  • Gussypoo, you're so right. I always have my inhaler at the end of the pool, yeh have used it while in the pool before, can't see the point of getting out as I still intended to keep swimming.

  • I think ignorance that was mentioned is right as the rare occasion I have told work colleagues or used my inhaler in front of people they just fuss and if I get slightly out of breath they're constantly asking if I'm ok and that's what I hate. I think my problem stems from when I was first diagnosed with exercise induced asthma in my early teens my mum said it was rediculous how doctors just dish out inhalers willy nilly. Unfortunately for me as the years went on my asthma has got progressively worse and now have several triggers other than exercise and suffer with chest infections a lot now. I think the point I'm making is that if I'm uncomfortable using inhalers in front of my family I'm never going to be comfortable using it in public!

  • its not ignorance it more than that!

    this is my opinion - but ignorance is not the problem here. yeah both smithy and I have asthma but there is a difference in severity and symptoms.

    Not everyone at my workplace knows just how bad my asthma is and i've chosen not to let everyone know that - yeah i turn blue and my bp and pulse rate shoots up and i get hooked up to an ecg machine everytime i have an attack. Because I dont want everyone to do what smithy describes as the frequent ok checks.

    I think its good that people are aware of your asthma as it will help in a panic situation when you need help - i agree with angievere as in a work situation i dont want a health matter to push me back or make me look weaker than others in the context of a promotion. I think there is so so much more going on to why people are embarrased of asthma in whatever way - but i dont think its ignorance anymore. Its more of a knowledge of the severity which is making it more highlighted with employers.

    In a work place i dont want to sick out as the one who could potentially get stressed out and back out of an important time of a project (hense why i hide my inhalers and use them in the ladies toilet!) and i dont want to feel different to anyone else. but if im not at work i dont give toss who thinks what as asthma is common..

  • Smithy, I literally never use an inhaler infront of my family, and I believe this stems from being a kid and my mum implying she didn't think I had asthma and not liking me using steroid inhalers. Over the years they've had me on the end of the phone a few times telling them that I've been ill, but they never see it. However, I'm most comfortable using an inhaler in public, when I know no one knows who I am, and I'll never see them again. Having said that, I still wait until people are most distracted away from me on public transport, or the street is quite quiet.

    Jsy_duck - I use your theory as well, that if I saw someone else using an inhaler I wouldn't think anything of it. That helps me a lot.

    I think the reason I find it embarrassing is incase people think that I'm weak or attention seeking.

    I constantly change teams that I work with, and have started a policy of trying to tell at least one person, over email, that I'm asthmatic and what to do if... This is working quite well, but does mean they look at me with stricken concern if they see me using an inhaler.

    I've got loads of good friends and colleagues who've known me for years and have no idea I'm asthmatic - I think I should be given a PHD in 'how to hide asthma' - and I hate the idea of using inhalers in front of them because they'll be so surprised.

    I also hate the way people always say 'I'd never guess that someone like you would have asthma' / 'it's weird because you seem so tough' etc etc. In some ways that's nice, but feels a little soul destroying every time. Maybe I should try telling my lungs that I don't appear to be the right 'kind' of person to have asthma, and see whether they'd start behaving... The good thing about that though is that when it does all go totally wrong, people take me very seriously.

    Oh, top tip, I'm much better at using inhalers in front of people after a couple of drinks, and they are less likely to make a big deal out of it. So start with that as practice and work your way up! And I let people rummage through my bag to find something, as they're bound to see a few inhalers, which is a start!

    Oddly enough, I hate most using inhalers around other asthmatics. Weird.

  • I don't like using my inhaler in front of asthmatics who I think are generally iller than me coz I always worry they will think I'm making a fuss over nothing even though id never think that about someone else!

  • one of the best things i did was get a medical ID. that way if you feel embarrassed and dont want people to know, you have seroius attacks and find speaking difficult or have other conditions/ multipul meds people will know what you have, what you take and what to do. there are some really nice ones on the net, some with interchangable bracelets so it never looks out of place. also, i find keeping my inhaler in a small purse helps keep it safe and prevents people seeing it in my bag. plus if i feel too embarrassed to use it i can take it to the toilets and no onr will know. i keep my peek flow meter in a make-up bag and test it in the toilets so people assume you are going to do your make-up, rather than wondering what the wierd looking thing your taking to the toilets is and why you have it. personalising your medical id (if you have one) and your medical / testing supplies is a great way to feel better about asthma. you can be an individual, you dont have to worry about what people think and it can be your little secret. with a medical id the people who need to know can know and the people who dont need to know dont have to. its important to be you and dont let asthma stop you

  • mosh,

    got one also.its a sos talisman braclet on a expansion bracelet,

    looks like got a watch on both wrists and work know I have it on incase need

    ring for a ambo.x

  • No one should have to feel embarrassed at the end of the day it's no one else business but our own. People stare at the most stupid of things sometimes I think people feel sorry for us. I use crutches etc due to my bad joints also have asthma etc people stare all the time I get asked have I been in an accident which I haven't I used to care what people thought but now I don't. The way I try to look at things is there are far worse people out there who have cancer, life limiting conditions etc that would wish to have asthma/my condition I know asthma can be extremly serious but there is so much more help for asthmatics than there was years ago why feel embarrassed carry your inhaler people you know should accept you for who you are you put your health at risk by not carrying it. Nevermind other people.

  • thats nosey people...

    sarah, I think your on to something. I just think people are lately soo soo soo nosey. It has nothing to do with them why your on crutches its like my nasty boots experience to collect (thats on a different post) my inhalers. Im not embrassed of my asthma in that context - but it wound me up that the pharmacist was quizzing me like crazy I didnt want to complain officially but then i thought hold on whats it got to do with her..my lungs my problem.

    i dont think people trying to help realise thy are making people feel worse!

  • I started off being embarassed and tried to hide my inhaler from my family. Little granddaughter on sleepover, wanted to know why I'd closed the door to her. Opened the door and explained that sometimes Grannie had to use a special medicine and that it had to be attached to something called an aerohaler and that the little one could help by listening out to see if the whistle sounded which meant Grannie wasn't doing it properly. Of course I sooked to make the whistle go a few times before actually pressing the inhaler and sooking properly. Many giggles and a lot of clapping when Grannie managed to do it without the whistle going. Then I showed her the Peak Flow meter and she had a go at that too.

    She may well come across a nursery or school friend with asthma so I figure if she knows that its not something strange or scary that's a good thing.

  • I should maybe have pointed out that when i mentioned ignorance and having encountered it, i did not mean people not knowing much about asthma and making a fuss

    The number of people who i have met who have actually been of the basic opinion of ""its only asthma"" and that YOUR making a fuss by taking the inhaler is unbelieveable. Also, I believe a lot of people at my current work place think asthma is just being breathless like any normal person feels breathless after running.

  • I have found that if I'm with people and I get breathless people tell me I'm really unfit and if I tell them I have asthma they say I am unfit because an ashmatic with us isn't breathless so I shouldn't be, one of my friends has asthma but exercise doesn't affect her at all so people think if she's ok I should be!

  • funny you should say that pampam - what goes around comes around.

    A one of my work colleagues noticed another colleagues inhaler in his draw at work and then started joking around in an open plan office ""oh your weak and puff on steroids"" and then when i said a large portion of the population did he just continued poking fun...odd thing is that he has returned from work after being on long term sick and its apparently hyperventilation syndrome/sleep apnea, he has a lot of the breathing problems i do - but i know he's an asthmatic! (and a rat!)

    A lot of people fail to understand no one wants to be ill or be an asthmatic person! People only understand how bad it when they meet someone with bad asthma.

    I still find it odd when people stare at someone using an inhaler though its not like a new epidemic or something or contagious!

  • When I first developed asthma I was very self-conscious about taking my inhaler around people, which was pretty difficult as exercise is a really bad trigger for me and I love going to gym classes and training with my pals.

    I had a couple of bad attacks during jitsu two weeks running and ended up sat on the sidelines taking my inhaler like it was going out of fashion AND wheezing loudly. So much for not attracting attention. So yeah, I got stared at, then I got twenty questions.I explained to the really littlies that 'I've got a poorly chest and my inhaler is medicine to help me feel better' and to the older ones that I had asthma, but my doctor hadn't found the right medicine for me yet. The questions gradually stopped and I started taking my inhaler publically. Both the adults and the kids got used to me needing to puff and very quickly found out that having asthma doesn't mean I've forgotten how to throw the guys around and take a throw when the coach is demonstrating techniques.

    I got a comment at work from someone outside the close-knit team I work in and I laughed it off with a 'You wouldn't say that if you'd seen the asthma attack I had on such and such a day'.

    Being an ambassador for your condition is annoying sometimes and I find it frustrating that so many people are ignorant, but if you've only ever seen people with mild 'magic blue inhaler cured' asthma then why would you know that it can be much worse than that? As someone with middling asthma that is neither 'magic blue inhaler' nor 'never leave home without my nebs' I try and let people I encounter learn a bit more and help them realise that asthma is a highly variable condition that isn't just a joke.

  • Anyone else unable to walk quickly and still talk? This morning walked rapidly up the road and of course this was one of those few times when I'd grabbed a handbag but not one with reliever inhaler in it!

    Know what? Its more embarrassing standing outside a shop peching away with NO reliever in your hand. You get more funny looks when you can't wave an inhaler at folk.

  • Grannymo

    I can never walk at a fast pace and talk at the same time. People always think its slightly strange when im with them as when we start walking a decent distance and any pace i go completely silent

    If i do it Im the same as you panting away and bent over

  • Just found this thread from a month or two ago. I get embarassed about this too, my husband is the only person in my family to know and even then I get embarassed to take my inhaler in front of him so leave the room. The problem is there's no obvious signs to anyone else that I need my inhaler, i get a tight chest and get breathless but it's never been so bad that its obvious to anyone else, so I don't want to look like I'm making it up.

    For the first time I went to my running group with my inhaler 'on show' (don't have pockets so held it in my hand) and every time I stopped everyone was checking I was ok, I'm not complaining, it was nice to know everyone cared, its just I dont' cope well with being centre of attention so got quite embarassed.

    Does anyone have any tips???

  • I get embarrassed too - especially at work and although I know they mean well an are being caring I really HATE people asking me if I'm ok! I try to take myself off to the loo to use the inhaler at work but sometimes just have to take it - really really embarrassing.

  • September...dunno if its any use to you but i got an mp2 arm strap thing aimed at runners from tescos near me. It was pretty cheap but means when im playin games at brownies i dont have to worry about anyone seein it they've no idea what it is in there unless they know me or need to know theb i'd tell them but it gives me peace of mind when im outdoors with them without it beon a constand thought....also you could strap it to your ankle i guess then people just think its a pedometer or summat. I dunno cause i dont do runnin but thought this may help...you can get all kinds of mp3 things aimed at runners so they probably wouldnt notice.

  • Bumped up for chloe!!

  • Thanks

    After reading this i relsie that i need to try get over it but being a teenager is already hard at this makes just that little harder

    Chloe x

  • i still do get quite embarrassed when i need to take my inhaler but at the min cos ive put loads of weight on due to an underactive thyroid changing again i feel more embarrassed that people will think im wheezing cos im fat not cos im asthmatic - god that sounds vain doesnt it x

  • i get like that,

    i've had asthma all my life and i still don't like taking my inhaler at school i will get out of lesons to do it xx

  • I use my inhalers in private and never talk about my illness.

    There are not many people who know that I have it unless

    I have an attack in front of them, then I can't hide it

    and say something like, 'I thought most people suffers with it'.

    Generally, people see it as a weakness.

    Others are ignorant and can become quite scared when a full-blown attack comes on

    but tbh, depending on how bad your attacks may be,

    it's better if others knew so that they can help, hopefully, NOT with a paper bag!

    That's one sure way of killing me.

  • i am the very same i never talk about it or anything. i swm for brighton and if i need my inhaler on poolside i will force myself to wait as i hate it and i dont know how to overcome it. any help???

    Jess x

  • Bumped up for nimueh

  • Thanks for bumping the thread, its helpful to see how others deal with it.

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