Asthma UK community forum
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when to use my inhaler?


I do not yet know if I have asthma or not, so firstly sorry if I am not supposed to be here. My Doctors have never yet mentioned asthma, but as I now have two inhalers (reliever I have had about 2 months, and Preventer I have had about 2 weeks) to 'see if they help my breathing' I am thinking asthma is looking likely. Although I am not a doctor!

Anyway, my question is about one of the two main times I need to use the reliever when I am near people that are smoking, have just been smoking or any other kind of smoke like a bonfire. I have suddenly started to notice how many people smoke in college, and while they are happily stood their smoking, I start coughing, wheezing and desperately not wanting to feel embarrassed using my inhaler while they are standing next to me. I just end up feeling so stuck and struggling. But scared of talking to the person about it.

Their are quite a lot of people in my class that smoke too, so I have problems when we are out on practical's, only then It is mixed with needing to exercise as well, which is the other thing that I have problems with. Again, I am really struggling with when to take my inhaler. The doctor who gave it to me said quite specifically to ""use it when I am struggling to breath, gasping or breathing quickly"". So, does this mean that when I am near smokers I do not even use it, because smoke makes me cough or wheeze, only exercise makes it hard to breathe. But I have now started trying to use it when the smoker has gone if I can, sometimes that seems a bit late though.

I am just a big stuck with it all, and what it is best for me to do.

Please can someone help.

4 Replies

Sorry to hear that your not well. But I get cough and wheeze around smokers and I just either leave the place immediately and use my inhalers or I tell them that I cannot tolerate it. When I wheeze or cough I tend to struggle with breathing or at least I get annoyed so I must use the inhaler before it gets too bad. So I think you too should not be worried about using your inhaler in public maybe think of it like taking paracetamol which almost everyone does.

Hope you get better



Hello Dipka,

Welcome to the forum. I find it less embarrassing to tell people I can't stand near them (if outside) because of the smoke being a trigger than thinking of using my inhaler because they are smoking and staying in the situation. It will be embarrassins to tell them at first but I find people are very understanding and they can smoke 'downwind' from you and then be closer when not smoking. Also, if it is asthma and you stay near smoke, you may never get control of it. I always need to take my inhaler with bonfire smoke.

If exercise also triggers your symptoms, take your reliever 15 minutes before you are active. I am still self conscious taking my inhaler in front of 'new' people and I have had asthma for 27 years, now 51 but if you need it, your need it. It might be useful to keep a record of symptoms, reliever use and possible triggers to take to your next appt.

Please feel free to ask any questions on here and the asthma website has some really good info too.



Thank you for the replies.

I have never seen anyone else with an inhaler though Yasmin, or using one so it feels like I am the only one with this problem. I was at a youth club I have been at a while but I had to go to the group for over 18's today. At one point I noticed a lot of smoke, and realised that some of the group were just outside the door smoking, luckily I was just going and so got away quickly! But I just find it really hard with new people, and I am not even sure if I am supposed to use the inhaler for coughing or wheezing or just when I really can't breathe when exercising. But I think this is something I need to ask the doctor when I next get a appointment.

How do people react when you ask them JF? And what do you say to them? I hear the people at college talking and being angry that teachers tell them to smoke in the smoking area- they talk like they own the college and can smoke wherever they want, and that the teacher is being mean to them. So I am terrified about speaking to them. (I have Autism, and basically never talk to people). Also you say if I stay near smoke I might never control asthma, how do I avoid smoke?

It Is good to know that you feel like I do when using your inhaler, it is nice to know I am not the only person. :)



Hi Dipka,

You only need to tell people you are hanging out with, I tend to mention that I can't stand close to them whilst they are smoking as it is one of my asthma triggers. Most people are understanding and if they are not, they are not worth hanging around anyway. I know you can't avoid smoke all of the time but to be around it and getting symptoms will not help your airways calm down. I often have to hold my breath when walking past cigarette smoke when walking in the street or near entrances to buildings. Are there people in your student group who don't smoke and want to stay away from it too?

It takes time to know when to use your inhaler also and sometimes it is trial and error. Do ask questions too of your GP/asthma nurse. Avoiding triggers or taking your inhaler when you can't is the best thing to do whilst learning about your asthma.

Feel free to ask more questions if you need to, as we were all in your situation at the beginning. Hopefully with the right meds and avoiding your triggers your asthma will start to calm down soon.


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