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Breathless and tight-chested all the time- but told it wasn't my asthma!


I'm seventeen, and I was diagnosed with asthma nearly ten years ago- so I've been living with it for half my lifetime.

My asthma's been acting up badly recently, and I'm almost constantly breathless, feel like there's a weight on my chest, and sometimes get really bad pain. As a result, I can no longer sleep in my bedroom, nor stay in a classroom or my common too at school for longer than 15 minutes because I find it so hard to breathe. I've been sleeping on the couch for the last few days because I find it a little easier down there.

I haven't been able to concentrate in school and I very much doubt that I will be able to cope with work tomorrow either.

I've been taking my Ventolin several times a day, and it doesn't seem to be helping much.

So I went to my doctor's surgery on Monday, and my dose of Qvar 100 was doubled so I now take 4 puffs in the morning and 4 in the evening.

However, yesterday (Thursday) I had an awful episode, I felt dizzy and my fingers and legs were numb and tingly from a lack of oxygen.

Went back to doctor's on an emergency appointment, and saw a different doctor- who didn't believe me when I said it was my asthma even though my Peak Flow was down by 100 (which she put down to 'not being wholehearted'. She said I didn't sound wheezy and my sats were fine so according to her it was anxiety rather than asthma. Thing is, I've had issues with both in the past and I can tell the difference, despite my asthma being bad I've been calm about it and everything is fantastic at the moment so I know it's not anxiety.

She did give me a three day Prednisone course as a 'benefit of the doubt' type thing, but I came away feeling embarassed and upset that I wasn't being taken seriously.

Does anyone have any advice? It's really ruining my life at the moment, I don't think I can take much more :/

Thank you!

5 Replies

Anxiety and asthma are well known to be linked - they are certainly not mutually exclusive! My understanding is that tingly fingers is a sign that you are hyperventilating. (although somebody feel free to correct me if i am wrong!!!) so it may be that there was some element of that - which certainly wont have made you feel any better during an asthma attack! And being dismissed is only going to increase your anxiety and stress - and that in turn will make your asthma worse. Ignore the doctor you saw - wheezing is not the only indicator of asthma, and i never have any issues with my oxygen, actually a more serious indicator is high co2 and that is not detected by a sats monitor (im not saying you had co2 issues, just that good o2 doesnt mean all is well) and at least you managed to get some pred to help you feel a bit better.

make sure in future you make it clear when you see a different GP, that you do not always wheeze. Make sure they know your best peak flow, and that you tend to have good o2 sats. This might help make it clear that you know you dont always show typical symptoms, but that your GP still feels its asthma.

the three days of pred should take you through till monday, hopefully by then you will be able to make an appointment with your usual GP. It might be the case that adding a long-acting reliver will help you, and this is something it might be worth asking about as clearly your lungs are not well controlled. (is it worth ringing the docs today to see if you can book an appt in advance)

and dont forget, when you have attacks it is as important to remember to take breaths that are as slow and calm as possible, hyperventilation is easy to get into during a bad episode and will make it feel much harder to breathe (according to my phyiso it can increase bronchospasm - i had never heard this before but she said it with confidence!) plus - the slower and deeper you are breathing the more salbutamol you are gonna get into your lungs! its important to stress that even if you are full on panicking and hyperventilating, that does not mean you aren't ALSO having an asthma attack! like you say - you know the difference!

feel better soon!


Arghh that sounds really annoying. I think others on here have also hadd issues with this. I know i did in the first months of my asthma going downhill. Also if the gp really didnt think it was asthma i dont think they would go around handing out pred just for the fun of it. So this to me suggests that maybe the gp just wasnt sure?

Hoping you feel better soon. Take care.

Rose xx


Hi Ely :0)

I agree with Soph on this. These health professionals just don't get it sometimes, but you've obviously had asthma long enough to know your own symptoms, so don't ignore them, ignore the GP you saw and ask to see someone else instead until you find someone who WILL listen to you and take you seriously. You didn't mention whether or not you take a preventer inhaler or not, but it certainly sounds as if you need one. Perhaps it would be worth keeping a peak flow record over the next 2 weeks, along with a record of how much Ventolin you're taking and what in particular you were doing at the time before you needed to take it. This will all help when it comes to supporting the need to change/adjust your treatment.

Natalie x


Hopefully the pred will help you pick up.

Don't be put off by one or two disappointing gp visits. I tend to make appointments for days I know certain gps are out in my surgery.

The best expert on you is you. Sometimes there are some answers suggested that make sense but you can have asthma and other things. I have heart issues and drs can never decide whether it's asthma or heart causing breathlessness as I don't really wheeze.

If you feel you are going downhill ask to speak to a different gp. Sometimes the locum stand in can be good because they view you objectively rather than rely on previous observations.

Struggling to breathe will make anyone anxious but do try and slow it down if you can although sometimes it just isnt possible.


hi i had the same thing recently and still suffering my sats and peak flow are fine pf 450 had 4 lots of anti biotics i called asthma uk out of desperate need. They suggested i had costcochrontis which is damage to your sternum which comes after a chest infection 8 weeks on im still in pain managing with nsaids and hot water bottles. Is the pain in your ribs and back ? look it up i dont like self diasiangnosing but i felt my doctors was tutting and complaining in their head


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