Embarrassed about Asthma?

I myself was diagnosed with asthma when I was only two years old, Ever since I have grown up feeling like I cannot participate in many activities which other people can.I often found that controlling my asthma was a tremendous struggle and find it embarrassing to take my inhaler in public,unfortunately I even struggle taking my inhaler in front of my family and close friends due to this I often find myself entering the first stages of an asthma attack or having an terrible attack and not able to get the medication I need. I'm now fithteen years old and I'm tired of having to hide the reality of living and coping with asthma because nobody that I know also has asthma I find it very hard to talk about it. So am I the only one who gets embarrassed over taking my inhaler in front of people? Is it an normal experience?

I will be very interested in everyone's opinions about this topic

17 Replies

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  • are you *sure* you don't know anyone else with asthma? Could it be that others are doing the same as you and trying to hide it?

    I'm an old fart lol (twice your age plus a bit) and although i was diagnosed around age 8/9 it's only in the past few years i've given up trying to hide it, i will now take my inhaler if i need it and not bother about who's around (the only exception being my pupils as i'm a teacher)

    I don't know how your symptoms present but if it's obvious you're struggling and you don't take your inhaler it make make people all the more fussy about you

    I also know that, for me the type of inhaler makes a difference to whether i want to use it in company. I used to have a noisy inhaler and was pretty embarrassed about using it but once when the pharmacy made a mistake and gave me a different one that didn't make a loud noise i was far less embarrassed so i then asked the doctor to change my prescription to the different inhaler.

    Sorry for rambling, just a few thoughts

  • I agree - it can still be embarrasing. I've got used to it around people I know, even people I don't know very well, I thought i was over the embarrased stage until I needed it the other day in the hairdressers and was just too embarrased to get my blue inhaler out - fortunately i didn't have to wait too long before I was in a room with just the 'eyebrows lady' (although i'm sure she has a proper name lol! And then i took it! Its strange - i know its not a sensible thing to be embarrased about, i just am sometimes!

    Best thing to do is just say to yourself 'well, i have to do it, inhalers are less embarrasing than ambulances, so i might as well just get it over with'. With people you know, they will soon get used to you taking it, i guess some people will ask about it (esp if you are the type of person who has bad attacks - i that people who have seen me taken off in an ambulance will tend to be more wary of me taking my inhaler than those who havent) but it stops being a big deal after a bit. I have one spacer that has a mask thing, like the ones little kids have, and i will just carry on conversations with it on!

    out of interest jinglfairy - what do you do if you need your inhaler while you're teaching? I never really thought about it until we had a teacher who did take her inhaler while we were all getting on with stuff,and then i did wonder! I guess it depends what age you teach as well - i guess with older kids you can just go outside and take it!

  • soph, i'm a cough variant asthmatic and usually i just keep coughing LOL

    I'm not a straightforward teacher, i travel from place to place and even have different groups within a single school. The longest amount of time i'm ever with one group is only an hour so if necessary i can take my inhaler during the crossover when one pupil / group has gone to get the next or i'm moving to the next one myself.

    During one particularly bad spell a year or so ago, 4 teachers all in different schools asked was i asthmatic cos it was so obvious but i still managed to stick to my rule ""not in front of the pupils"" LOL

  • Hey :)

    I'm exactly the same! So far my way of coping is just to not take inhalers.... not ideal and I wouldn't recommend it! I've just come back for a week in cornwall and I didn't even take my inhaler with me because I knew I wouldn't be able to take it without someone seeing or hearing it. I once used my inhaler in a lecture and from the looks I got you'd think I'd dropped dead or something so that kind of put me off.

    I realise that that isn't the most helpful comment that you'll get:P I think it's important to know how far you can manage without your inhaler and don't push yourself over that boundary. Like Soph says, it's less embarrassing than an ambulance!

    Sorry I couldn't be of any help

  • jinglfairy - any particular reason for the rule? Had a very awkward situation in our school where one class used so much spray that the teacher ended up in hospital (awkward - only because a few people did it on purpose - and the rest of the class were basically in shock that anyone could be so stpuid/cruel!)

    Rachel93 - blimey thats a fairly extreme aversion to taking your inhalers - i'm not brave enough to walk down to the shops without it, even if i dont think i'd take it its nice to know its their (some paramedics are really mean if you've run out of salbultamol, i'd hate to think what they'd do if you'd just not got it!)

    although i agree, people look horrendously shocked at inhalers, even the sound of them makes about 50 heads turn around in a lecture! I have to admit, i close my eyes when i'm wheeled into the back of an ambulance, so at the very least i dont have to SEE who's staring at me!! I think it's just curiousity, and in some cases concern. I once watched an asthmatic for a min, she was only about 13 and sounded pretty nasty, was just about to go over and check she was ok when a mum-type-person turned up and was looking after her, so i guess in some cases its genuine concern, and i try to think of that. Although mostly i think people just like to know whats going on, which is more annoying!

  • Ha, one advantage of having Type 2 Brittle Asthma is that I go from bit-tight (or fine) to a full on stop-breathing, fall to my knees, scrabble for inhaler, eventually begin to make a noise like a seal on the inhale and cough like a 95 year old B&H addict on the exhale... for several minutes. Sometimes eventually coughing to the point of puking. So... there is nothing more embarrassing than a full attack, and thus an early puff that might head that off feels like no biggie!

    Basically it's less embarrassing to ask to go to the toilet than to wee on myself in public, seems to be how I see it :)

    Jingfairy - I'm also interested in your rule, and how you think it might impact on pupils who do/don't have asthma if they saw you use your inhaler?

    Rachel93 - I can't even go to the loo without mine, so going on holiday without is quite amazing.

    I've actually never noticed people looking shocked at inhalers. Advantage of the aspergers - I can't read their facial expressions unless they fully Jim-Carey it up.

  • tbh i can't really give a logical reason for my self-imposed rule :-s Maybe it's the one area i haven't got over my embarrassment or maybe it's just something about me i don't want the pupils to know :-s

    rachel, i'm also amazed you went away without your inhaler :-o I wouldn't consider my asthma to be particularly bad but still wouldn't dream of of going away without it, you just don't know what's going to happen

    i've also never noticed anyone being shocked at inhalers, in a meeting once i did hear someone taking their inhaler (and i think i know which of my colleagues it probably was), i deliberately didn't look round cos i know from experience how embarrassing it can be

  • If there was an evils smiley I feel like I would have received a lot of them :P To be fair, it was a better Option than my mum finding my inhaler and throwing it away! It's full and I can't afford another one yet haha! I do very much regret not having it now though. I guess rural cornwall in warmish weather (well, it didn't snow anyway!) is nicer than being in the middle of a city with the smokers corner outside the window! I regret even more going to the gym!

    Just had a thought (courtesy of my room mate is playing music so loud I can't work) why not put on some music or the tv or just distract everyone when you want to use your inhaler? Maybe find a busy area and then make everyone look the opposite way? It only needs to work for a few seconds :)

    Alternatively, maybe just nip to the loo and use it there? Not a solution for the embarrassment, but at least you can take it :) I think to overcome the embarrassment is something everyone has to do on their own and for some it's easier than others.

  • To be fair, it was a better Option than my mum finding my inhaler and throwing it away!

    Wait... what?

  • To be fair, it was a better Option than my mum finding my inhaler and throwing it away!

    Wait... what?

    My mum doesn't believe that asthma exists, or that modern medicines work.... so she throws stuff away that she finds and shouts at me for having them...

    I much prefer to be at uni :P

  • To be fair, it was a better Option than my mum finding my inhaler and throwing it away!

    Wait... what?

    My mum doesn't believe that asthma exists, or that modern medicines work.... so she throws stuff away that she finds and shouts at me for having them...

    I much prefer to be at uni :P

    How strange - why doesn't she believe it? And you'd have thought she'd just accept it even if SHE didn't believe, you clearly do (and its not exactly a belief is it) Has she actually thrown them away in the past?

    Although I say its strange, my sis came across a parent who wouldnt let their kid have calpol for a ridiculos fever and so the poor thing ended up having febrile convulsions before they had time to treat the kid properly (not sure how it works, there must be a system for overruling parents in that kind of circumstance although is possible she folded when the seizure started - still ridiculous!)

    What does she say when she has a go at you? It just seems so surreal to me!

  • How strange - why doesn't she believe it? And you'd have thought she'd just accept it even if SHE didn't believe, you clearly do (and its not exactly a belief is it) Has she actually thrown them away in the past?

    Although I say its strange, my sis came across a parent who wouldnt let their kid have calpol for a ridiculos fever and so the poor thing ended up having febrile convulsions before they had time to treat the kid properly (not sure how it works, there must be a system for overruling parents in that kind of circumstance although is possible she folded when the seizure started - still ridiculous!)

    What does she say when she has a go at you? It just seems so surreal to me!

    I have no idea! There have been many arguments on the subject! She thinks it's attention seeking and constantly reminds me that I'm supposed to have a dodgy chest since I had a chest infection when I was a few hours old that was never properly treated (she wouldn't allow me and my sister to be separated so I could go into special care!). I study medical sciences so I have shown her numerous articles, diagrams, books as proof but she still says I'm just being stupid and wasting my money on inhalers. I have pointed out that maybe if she hadn't ignored the fact that I couldn't breathe properly my whole life I may not have needed all of the inhalers!

    She has thrown 2 inhalers away and a pf meter. The first inhaler was my spare reliever, which was annoying because it was hayfever season and my other one had nearly run out. The second was a preventer which didn't matter because the preventer had been changed that morning and she threw away the old one.

    She generally just shouts at me. In the most recent discussion, she said I use it as an excuse not exercise or help around the house ( I go to the gym 5 times a week and I live about 100 miles away right now!!!!) She blames me for ruining her dream of having a kid in the olympics, completely ignoring the fact that I am hopeless at sport! Just generally shouts at me. It's weird though, if my sister is ill she's taken straight to the docs or even a&e!

    Aww that poor kid :( I always fail to fully comprehend how a parent can ignore their child when it's ill. If I have kids I'll be sat worrying about them and cuddling them :P

  • Rachel - :( At least you don't have to hide them at uni!

    Re embarrassment: I have a very specific but probably slightly bizarre set of rules about when I'll take mine:

    -In the street/on a bus/at a bus stop etc where there's no-one I know - fine

    -At home with people I know, or out with really good friends who know, or (formerly, I work from home now) at work where people didn't seem to look and had got used to it - fine.

    -At choir - fine (luckily, because otherwise the incense would be even more of a problem).

    -Socially, with people I don't know so well - not fine. I will go to the loo in this case if I need it!

    -In a lecture - prefer not to in a small lecture theatre but will if I have to, but will try to hide it. Big one, no prob (friends are used to it, lecturer prob won't notice). In a seminar - will try to hold off unless I have to or there are loads of people and I'm at the back.

    -In a small group/one on one situation - never unless I was literally gasping. If I have a meeting with my supervisor or someone and I think I might need it before it's over I will 'pre-treat' to be sure I don't need it during the meeting!

  • I'm also a teacher, relatively newly diagnosed. I keep my inhaler in my pocket and leave the classroom if I need to use it.

    Though the people I'm close to know I am asthmatic, I can't use my inhaler around anyone at all - its embarassing the way that people look at youa s if you are going to drop dead at any moment :-/

  • Rachel, I have been in a similar position and I feel for you. There are lots of people out there who don't believe you're ill iif there's nothing to be seen. It used to worry me quite a lot and I was always wary of using my inhalers where anyone could see me.

    However, the last time I was really ill I ran out of sick leave and holiday and had to go back to work or starve! After the first couple of days I stopped trying to sneak off to cough and use my inhalers - partly because it was too tiring to keep getting up and dashing out of the office and partly because my colleagues collectively decided to ignore all the coughing, spluttering and inhaler slurping unless I was in real distress, when i got cups of tea, glasses of water and boxes of tissues. On the rare occasions that there was no coughing one or other of them would check that I was ok (actually, they'd usually yell across the office 'Annie, you've gone quiet - are you dead?'). Anyway, it only took a few days of that to make me lose all my worries about using my inhaler where I can be seen and now I don't care where I am or who's about, the inhaler comes out as soon as it's needed and anybody who doesn't like it doesn't have to look.

    I would now urge anybody who feels embarrassed about using their inhaler to go for it - you might be surprised at how little notice people will take. My little granddaughter has known about my 'medicine' since she was about 3 and understands why I use it.

    Sorry, I'm rambling again.

  • Dear All, Here are the words of an old man born in the 1950's. I am what they call a step 4 Asthma who takes three inhalers per day, plus Sigulair and now anti Hay-Fever stuff due to the time of the year. Thirteen years ago I met a lovely lady who has since become my Domestic Manager (Wife/Partenr/Best Buddy etc) Only since 13 years ago do I now take my medications quite openly and admit to having Asthma to anyone who can hear me. Up to then it was a quick visit to the loo and hide my meds when I had an overnight comopanion. Why am I no longer embarrassed or in denial? It is because of two actions in my life. 1, Finding my soul mate and 2. Becoming active with Asthma UK.

    I have asthma and I am no longer ashamed. Since becoming involved in Asthma UK I now undertsand a lot more and know that I am not alone. Asthma Uk people do not make me feel ashamed - thank you Asthma UK

  • Peter, I really hope that more people can get to the same stage. Maybe we should adopt the same attitude that has helped so many other groups to gain recognition and acceptance - Asthmatic and proud!

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