The best and the worst of A and E - Asthma UK communi...

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The best and the worst of A and E

Something I have found particularly eye opening is the huge variety in treatment of asthmatics in A and E. I have had really really great treatment and then not so good- I don't know how common this is, so thought I'd share my experiences and see what any of you have experienced and if you have any advice.

The good 

- Quick treatment and being taken seriously

- Asking me what's helped before: when you've had more than a few big attack you know your asthma more than those looking after you. I'm not a doctor and I'm not going to demand treatment if its not necessary but I do know my own body. 

The bad

- Asking someone having a severe asthma attack the same questions again and again. I know that paramedics, nurses and doctors all have different agendae and training and that some questions are crucial to ask individually (eg allergies). BUT I don't think everyone claryfying what medication I take and how long I have had asthma for is necessary- especially when you can't speak so it's a yes/ no game- and I've already gone through this! This happens a lot to me, but I don't have an asthma plan- considering writing my own just in case for next time.

- The WORST thing anyone can say to me is, 'slow you're breathing down, you're anxious'. I KNOW IM ANXIOUS I CANT BREATHE PROPERLY!!!! I cannot explain how angry this makes me- I feel labelled as having a panic attack rather than an asthma attack despite my peak flows dropping right off. Yes anxiety is a component but it's not the cause. Instead ask me- what are you worried about? I may reply (if I can!) 'this is a really bad attack for me' or 'why isn't this medication making me feel better, it usually does'

What are your experiences? 

11 Replies

Like you I've had both good and bad experiences. The good was great docs took me very seriously, took bloods, gave meds and explained what was going to happen etc. The bad I like you was made to feel like a fraud, that I was deliberately making myself worse for attention type thing. Its amazing how depending on what doc, time of day, shift time etc that we receive such drastically different treatment.

When I spoke to the consultant on my first admission he talked to me about the panic you feel when you have an attack. He said panic is a perfectly reasonable and normal response to not being able to breathe. He explained that he teaches and often on his courses the docs will say "I wouldn't panic I am a doctor I know what is going on" so he says to them, "Go home and find a big rock at least as big as your lap. Tie it to your feet and jump in the river. Wait a minute or two and then tell me you aren't panicking because that is what it feels like to someone who can't breathe"

I thought that was great and told me he really understands the psychological aspects as well as the physical when someone is struggling to breathe. He explained that they try to treat both side by side, so that when I do have an attack I can lessen the impact by dealing with the panic I feel (which he stressed is a very natural response). He was really good.

Unfortunately it doesn't happen across the board.


Thank you for reply :)

It is so reassuring for me that others also experience the anxiety component. I have been made to feel so many times that it's abnormal. That doc sounds like a very wise man! I wish more doctors understood that part


He was really good, but he is a resp specialist so he knew what he was talking about.

I think its hard for asthmatics because we can struggling so badly but things like our sats don't correspond to it and therefore docs don't believe us. its crazy

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Had good and bad too. 

Good points

Being looked after by a nice sensible respiratory registrar who is now my consultant

Being seen quickly (but I am a nurse at hospital where I had to goto ED)

Bad points

Hearing that whole 'but I can't hear a wheeze'! 

Being left to wait ages then when finally got seen told that I was really tight!! 

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I had a bad asthma attack at work in 2013. Everyone at work and the paramedics were great! I was breathing okay by the time paramedics got to my place to work. Even so, the paramedics took all my vitals and gave me a nebulizer. Then I got to the hospital.... I sat there for an hour and a half just to hear, "your chest is tight still. You need another nebulizer". Sat for another 45 minutes. I'm still breathing okay, but, it's annoying! Got called back again and got two more nebulizers. Then, I got discharged. It just baffles me how these doctors let us sit and suffocate! Maybe someone should turn the tables on them! :-) 

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Hi Ktw well if I can't cope I usually call the ambulance and they start treating me at home, 

I usually get steroids, oxygen and piriton or some injection once I get there then they monitor my stats and throw me out in the middle of the night when I'm better so I always take my phone and money for the taxi back although I'm a bus ride away but my legs are like jelly..

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that has happened to me a LOT.. I get a sudden attack so sudden it panics me.. so off to hospital I go.. to be given neb after neb.. told I am a bit wheezy and to try and control my breathing.. you YOU try panicking while having an asthma attack and let me tell YOU to control your breathing....then after taking lots of nebs which make you shaky on your feet.. told to go home...its not easy lol...I am sometimes made to feel like a fraud.. like i am making it up.. yeah I LOVE hospitals so much and having blood gasses being taking.. I just had to fake an attack and the wheezyness just to come see you!! not!


Dear Dear all my love Alliecat xxx

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My Bad experience is I go to A&E ( UHW-Cardiff) husband took me was using my Bricynal Turbo Haler a lot finally get seen after 3.5 hrs to be told by the Triage Nurse what have you come here for!!!!!!!

My Hubby said my Wife cannot breath I did a PF struggled with that was around 120... Nurse then said I don't know why you came to A&E as Asthmatics go to their Drs. !!!!!!

I said wheezing my GP has told me to come here, her reply was there wrong. 

I also said my 2x consultants are here. Her responce was So!!!!!

Went to GP surgery they were closed for staff training....had to wait till following day my GP was horrified and said were gonna sort this out another time at my other hospital Llandough, again waited over 4 hrs even tho a big sign next to reception desk said Emergancies will be Priority. The Receptionist was to busy talking to her Collegue. When My hubby managed to spk said my wife is having a really severe attack she looked at me and went join the que. you won't be able to jump to the top. 

Waited and waited and waited. Finally my name was called saw a lovely Dr who was like OMG you shd have been seen straight away. As I couldn't talk by this time.

My hubby told him he was discusted with receptionist esp as big board up saying Emergancies come 1st. Got put on Nebs Had IV Drips. Then given bad news sorry I will have to sleep in waiting room 6 of us) as No Beds/Trolleys

Llandough Hospital you can only go to via Ambulance or By Car and given letter by GP ( you cannot just go to like UHW)

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Good, bad and so-so. Very variable. Agree that being told 'no wheeze' is extremely annoying! 

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The Good

- resus teams, they are fricking amazing and they understand that people do not present the way they'd like all the time, and they are patient but quick, they are like 1 doc to 2 patients so you get a lot of contact time and it's quite intensive

- it's a good reason to get seen really quickly and you have good reason to push the ED team if you aren't being seen pretty much straight away

- the docs at my hospital who can get ABGs on the first go

- some of the equipment they've got (such as vacuum attachments for helping draw blood, and small cannulae)

- often good communication, especially in resus, and they always tell you what's going on and when they are leaving if they have to go

- most ED docs at my local hospital understand I don't have a typical presentation and they work on my peak flows, how I look, what's working, and what my bloods are saying

The Bad

- when you don't get seen really quickly and you're just thinking "they're leaving me to die"

- when people try to tell you to calm down

- when they try to tell you how to breathe, or slow your breathing, or stop panicking you're making yourself worse

- when people think that because I'm not wheezing and my O2 sats are great, I can go home even though I can't talk and my chest is silent

- when you keep writing that you have an atypical presentation but they still insist you're good to go

- the fact that you can still be in resus at 3:00 am even when you went in at 10:00 pm

- when you don't have the breath to thank people

- when some idiot tries to make you do a peak flow when you can't actually speak and you're waiting for a fricking nebuliser still


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