I’ve learnt to take my asthma seriously
Yasmeen, 24, is a nurse living and working in East London. She shares her story of managing her severe asthma.
I don’t think I took the diagnosis very seriously at the beginning
When I was about five or six, I was diagnosed with asthma. I can’t really remember when or how, but I do remember that I always had a chest infection or a cold. I was diagnosed with severe asthma in my teenage years after been constantly poorly and having asthma attacks brought on by chest infections. I was given preventative and reliever medication, as well as steroids and antibiotics.
From a young age, I knew that I wanted to be a nurse, so I started studying to become one when I was 18. Asthma didn’t really affect my day to day life until I was about 19. I specifically remember one day, I was on a nursing shift at the hospital, I noticed that I was starting to experience increased breathlessness. I was sent home, but was rushed back into hospital as a patient a few hours later. This was my first asthma attack and the start of my asthma worsening. Funnily enough, even before this admission to hospital I noticed that I was getting out of breath a lot when I exercised - I used to enjoy playing football and going to the gym, but when I starting struggling with my breathing, this became more difficult. For some reason, I didn’t realise that the symptoms I was experiencing were asthma.
I then went under the care of the respiratory team at the hospital I work at and started to have regular check-ups with the respiratory consultant and asthma nurse. As well as being on medication, I had blood and lung function tests. The respiratory team then diagnosed severe asthma. And I now know that viral infections/colds will trigger an asthma attack. But to be honest, I don’t think I took the diagnosis very seriously at the beginning, because I didn’t realise the severity of asthma and how ill you can be.
I remember the asthma nurse coming to me see me in hospital when I was first admitted with an asthma attack, and I felt anxious. But between them and the consultant we came up with an action plan and I know how important this is for me to be able to manage my asthma.
I now know that when I am feeling quite breathless or tight in my chest and the reliever inhaler isn’t improving my symptoms, it’s an indication to get an urgent appointment with my GP. I check my peak flow score every day and if it’s lower than usual, I know I need to speak to a healthcare professional. And I know this is different for each of us who has asthma, as we aren’t all the same and our treatment and action plans are different.
Using my spacer really helps
I now have appointments every five to six months with the nurse and consultant. Together we monitor my inhaler technique alongside my medication and review my action plan. The asthma nurse gave me a spacer to use with my inhalers and I was made aware of how it is more effective because it enables more medication to directly go into my lungs. So I now use my spacer when I’m at home and I find that really helps.
Each time I see the asthma nurse, they check the way I use my inhaler. I find this helpful because it stops any bad habits forming and my nurse will help me if I am using my spacer wrong. If you breathe in too quickly you aren’t breathing in as much medicine as you should. It is a quite a skill. There is a good guide by AsthmaUK on how to use your spacer and inhaler.
I’ve learnt to take asthma seriously now. I’m working on an acute ward so I see what asthma can do to people, and I know from my own experience the slow recovery you can have after an asthma attack. I now make sure I take my medication correctly and compliantly. Monitoring my symptoms via my action plan helps me know when to seek medical help and I would advise other people with asthma to do the same. Things are seeming to be looking more positive for me now because my asthma is better controlled.
Managing my asthma helps me live my life, giving me the time do things I like such as going out to bars and seeing friends. My best advice to anyone living with asthma is to ensure that they manage their asthma well and do not see it as a negative thing, but rather something that as long as it is managed, can still allow you to live a normal and happy life. I would also recommend know your triggers and what to avoid to prevent any asthma attacks!
- The Taskforce for Lung Health is committed to improving inhaled therapy and recommends a clear pathway for accurate prescribing and adherence. Read more about the work we are doing to achieve this aim, here: https://www.blf.org.uk/taskforce/about/medicines-optimisation-working-group