Asthma and Occupational health queries - Asthma UK communi...

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Asthma and Occupational health queries

LeiLey profile image

Just looking for some advice. Only recently diagnosed with asthma (don’t know type etc yet) so still learning as my asthma nurse says lol. Hope everyone is doing ok. I have recently changed jobs and finding I am still quite breathless when walking up stairs and walking fast on the level. I tried my ventolin inhaler 5-10 mins before I knew I was going to be doing stairs and I really did feel like it made a positive difference to me.

1. Am I ok to do this before if I know it helps, or do I wait til I become breathless on the stairs then take it?

Also, I was changing jobs before I got the asthma diagnosis but spoke to the occupational health people beforehand about a possible diagnosis and other problems I had been having. (She asked my peak flow and said she wasn’t too worried that it was asthma) and I then got the job and haven’t been in touch with them since.

2. Should I inform my employer (NHS) and occupational health of my asthma even if it is mild?


11 Replies

Firstly just what to her asking your peak flow and saying probably not asthma!! That would make me not want anything to do with her as an occ health practitioner! Clearly has no idea about asthma. Many people with asthma have "good" peak flows (ie higher than those archaic "expected" ranges). As I'm sure you know, it's relevant according to you and only you and your best.

My dealings with occ health a few years ago were when I was having issues with work (as in working and asthma, work weren't being awkward or anything but my asthma was). To be begin with I saw a nurse (I think) who wasn't overly helpful but things stabilised a bit so it wasn't a problem. When it became an issue again, I requested a doctor (can't remember who told me to ask to see a doctor.... might have been my consultant. He said it needed to be someone who knew about asthma.) She was brilliant and much more helpful.

My thinking is, if you need support or adjustments workwise, then it can be useful to have them involved. But if you can, you need to see someone who has a proper understanding of asthma. Someone deciding based on a peak flow score that they can just quash your diagnosis would make me very wary!

Vent-wise, in theory people shouldn't need to do that because of course preventers should be sufficient to cover them. Some people will still need to however. My thinking would be that it can be better to preempt as say a puff or two might prevent bigger issues. If you know it's a trigger and don't, then you might need more puffs to sort it out. I don't know how "official" that advice would be though!

LeiLey profile image
LeiLey in reply to twinkly29

Ohh thank you for your helpful reply. When I said to the occ health nurse I was under investigation for asthma she asked my lowest and highest peak flow which were 380 and 450 then said she wasn’t worried about those scores lol, so I kind of got into my head that I couldn’t possibly have asthma! But yes as you say peak flow is only relevant to oneself.

Ventolin wise, my asthma nurse was concerned that the preventer possibly wasn’t enough at the current dose but until I get used to the stairs and improve my fitness in general (& lose weight), any add on inhalers etc might not do anything for me (as in stairs, fast walking etc as it might always trigger me).

So I said I will keep on the same inhalers for now and she will review in 4-6 weeks. Fingers crossed lol.

twinkly29 profile image
twinkly29 in reply to LeiLey

With the inhalers I'd do what works for you at the moment and make keep a vague record of your vent use including why as it all provides evidence towards increase of inhalers etc if needed - as well as obviously doing what you need it to do at the time.

Ok so maybe the nurse meant she wasn't concerned at that very moment (with the peak flows). But that would still be weird as someone could see occ health on a really good day but still need their support for strategies etc generally.

LeiLey profile image
LeiLey in reply to twinkly29

Thank you, I will keep a record of it yes as it’s all helpful. The ball was left in my court with the inhalers so I thought I would keep the same (Fostair 100/6 2 puffs twice a day) and ventolin for the next 4 weeks. Yes that’s possible, the occ health nurse may have meant at the moment it’s not a concern. I forgot to say with working in the NHS we have to mention our health issues etc especially when applying for a job. Everything on paper lol. So I didn’t put Asthma at the time (not diagnosed) but I put Migraine, back pain etc. Thanks twinkly

twinkly29 profile image
twinkly29 in reply to LeiLey

I think that's fair enough. Maybe ask your boss if you need to update things but until it's diagnosed it's difficult I guess.

LeiLey profile image
LeiLey in reply to twinkly29

Yes will keep in mind thank you. How are you doing?

LeiLey profile image
LeiLey in reply to LeiLey

Should also add that I am diagnosed now as having asthma, the asthma nurse said the GP had first diagnosed it before Christmas.

In the NHS you would see occupational health as part of the post recruitment process. In this instance I think the OH nurse was saying that she had no concerns regarding your asthma impacting on your successful application.

You are not obliged to discuss your diagnosis but if you're struggling with mobility then OH can help if it impacts your job. If you think you require some reasonable adjustments in order to make it easier to fulfill your duties then occupational health will be able to make recommendations to the manager, following a review. Your manager can refer you to OH and so you would then have to discuss your asthma diagnosis and the way it impacts on your duties, especially if you're called upon to do alot of walking and have to use the stairs repeatedly. Adjustments can be as simple as allowing you to get from A to B at your own speed.

As for your Ventolin use, you should discuss this with your doctor or asthma nurse- they may wish to increase or change your preventative meds so that you don't require so much Ventolin. It's very individual to the patient, some people still require daily Ventolin despite high amounts of preventer meds. It's a matter of trial and error, learning about one's asthma.

Good luck in your new job!

LeiLey profile image
LeiLey in reply to Poobah

Thank you Poobah I think I’m going to enjoy the job! Yes I wondered about whether I have to tell OCc health even if I don’t wish to use their services regarding asthma. Yes I have started saying to colleagues to meet me at the top of the stairs and I will take my time getting there lol. I felt it helped me taking the ventolin first as I wasn’t as short of breath and could actually talk better at the top. Luckily I only seem to have to go to the third floor not higher. There are lifts but they are always in use and take along time waiting for them to be free, that’s why everyone said we should take the stairs.

Hopefully it will improve in time, but as the asthma nurse said I’m still new to inhalers and asthma so it’s a learning curve, she is checking in 4-6 weeks so I’m hoping by then I will be needing the ventolin less and be running 🙈

Are you ok?

Thanks for your help

Poobah profile image
Poobah in reply to LeiLey

I'm good, thank you. I find that I can do stairs etc at my own pace but need a little recovery time (not have to talk!) without Ventolin. Even after all these years (decades) I'm still acutely aware of friends & family having to wait for me. Anyone who appears to be a little impatient gets the offer of plastic bag over their head so they can share my experience! One relation, who is very active, puts everything down to people not exercising enough. Imagine my delight when they experienced breathing issues at altitude - a mountain climbing trip - and they couldn't keep up with their group. I know that sounds horrible, but ever since that experience their attitude has changed towards those less mobile. Sometimes we have to walk in another man's shoes to understand.Coming to terms with what one can and can't do after an asthma diagnosis is a bit of a learning curve but kindness & patience from others is always welcome. Take care.

LeiLey profile image
LeiLey in reply to Poobah

Pleased you’re ok.Yes, I bet a lot of people don’t understand until or if it happens to them so I know what you mean about your relative! At least they will understand now 😊

Frustrating isn’t it when people assume it’s not your asthma driving symptoms but because you don’t exercise 🙈I hope people can be more supportive.

Ohh yes I’ve learned I can’t talk whilst climbing stairs! Thank you , take care too

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