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Find out about living with asthma, including how to stay healthy and how to keep your symptoms under control.

Looking after yourself

Take your medication regularly and properly

It's important to take any prescribed medication regularly, as this can help keep your symptoms under control and prevent severe asthma attacks.

It's also important to use any inhalers and spacers you may have been prescribed properly. Make sure your GP or practice nurse shows you how to use your inhalers correctly.

Check with your doctor or asthma nurse if you plan to take any over-the-counter remedies, such as painkillers or nutritional supplements. These can sometimes interfere with your medication.

Some common medicines, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may not be suitable if you have asthma. Always check the label or packet and ask a pharmacist, doctor or nurse if you're not sure.

Speak to your doctor or asthma nurse if you have any concerns about the medication you're taking, or if you're experiencing any side effects.

Stop smoking

If you have asthma and you smoke, stopping smoking can significantly reduce how severe and frequent your symptoms are.

If you think you need help to stop smoking, you can contact NHS Smokefree for free advice and support. You may also want to talk to your GP about the stop smoking medications available.

Read more about stop smoking support or find a stop smoking service near you.

Exercise regularly

Exercising regularly is as important for people with asthma as everyone else. Aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, such as fast walking or cycling.

Although exercise can sometimes trigger your symptoms, this shouldn't happen once you're on appropriate treatment.

If you or your child has symptoms during or after exercise, speak to your doctor or asthma nurse. They may consider updating your personal asthma plan to help you keep your symptoms under control.

You may also be advised to:

  • make sure the people you are exercising with know you have asthma
  • always have your reliever inhaler with you when you exercise
  • use your reliever inhaler immediately before you warm up
  • ensure that you always warm up and down thoroughly

If you have symptoms while you're exercising, stop what you're doing, take your reliever inhaler and wait until you feel better before starting again.

Read about health and fitness for more information on simple ways to exercise.

Eat healthily

Most people with asthma can eat a normal, healthy diet.

Along with regular exercise, this can help you maintain a healthy weight, which may help keep your asthma symptoms under control, as well as reduce your risk of other health problems.

Some people may have food allergies that trigger their symptoms and will need to avoid these foods, but this is uncommon.

Read more about good food and a healthy diet.

Know your triggers

It's important to identify possible asthma triggers by making a note of where you are and what you're doing when your symptoms get worse.

Read about the causes of asthma for more about potential triggers.

Some triggers, such as air pollution, illnesses and certain weather conditions, can be hard to avoid. But it may be possible to avoid other triggers, such as dust mites, fungal spores, pet fur and certain medications. See allergy prevention for more information.

Speak to your doctor or asthma nurse for advice if you think you have identified a trigger for your symptoms.

Get vaccinated

Certain infections can trigger your symptoms if you have asthma.

Everyone with asthma is encouraged to have the annual flu jab and the one-off pneumococcal vaccination.

You can get these vaccinations at your GP surgery or a local pharmacy that offers a vaccination service.

Getting a good night's sleep

Asthma symptoms are often worse at night. You might wake up some nights coughing or with a tight chest.

If your child has asthma, poor sleep can affect their behaviour and concentration, as well as their ability to learn.

Effectively controlling asthma with the treatment your doctor or nurse recommends should help. But speak to them if you're having trouble getting to sleep.

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Regular reviews and monitoring

You'll have regular contact with your care team to monitor your condition.

These appointments may involve:

  • talking about your symptoms – such as whether they're affecting your normal activities or are getting worse
  • a discussion about your medication – including whether you think you might be experiencing any side effects and whether you need to be reminded how to use your inhaler correctly
  • breathing tests

It's also a good opportunity to ask any questions you have or raise any other issues you'd like to discuss with your doctor or asthma nurse.

You may be asked to help monitor your condition between appointments. For example, you may be advised to check your peak flow reading if you think your symptoms may be getting worse.

Your personal action plan should say what to do if your symptoms get gradually or suddenly worse. Contact your doctor or asthma nurse if you're not sure what to do.

Cold weather and asthma

Cold weather is a common trigger for asthma symptoms.

Asthma UK advises the following measures to help you keep your symptoms controlled in the cold:

  • Carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times and keep taking your regular preventer inhaler as prescribed by your doctor.
  • If you need to use your inhaler more often than usual, speak to your doctor about reviewing your medication.
  • Keep warm and dry – wear gloves, a scarf and a hat, and carry an umbrella.
  • Wrap a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth – this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.
  • Try breathing in through your nose instead of your mouth as your nose warms the air as you breathe in.

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Travelling with asthma

Asthma shouldn't stop you from travelling, but you will need to take extra precautions when going on holidays and long trips.

You'll need to make sure you have enough of your medication with you and keep your reliever inhaler where you can get to it easily.

If you've not seen your doctor or asthma nurse for a while, it's a good idea to see them before you travel to review your personal action plan and make sure it's up-to-date.

Your doctor or asthma nurse can also advise you about travelling with asthma.

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Pregnancy and asthma

Asthma doesn't affect your chances of having children and the vast majority of women with asthma will have a normal pregnancy.

Generally speaking, the treatment for pregnant women with asthma is the same as normal.

Most asthma medicines – particularly inhalers – are considered safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding.

But speak to your doctor or asthma nurse for advice if you become pregnant or are planning a pregnancy because:

  • your symptoms may get worse during pregnancy (although some women find they improve), so your treatment may need to be reviewed regularly
  • poorly controlled asthma in pregnancy can increase the risk of complications such as pre-eclampsiapremature birth and restricted growth of the baby in the womb
  • extra precautions may need to be taken during labour to avoid an asthma attack (although attacks during labour are rare)

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Asthma at school

Most children with well-controlled asthma can learn and participate in school activities completely unaffected by their condition.

But it's important to ensure the school has up-to-date written information about your child's asthma medicines, how much they take, and when they need to take them.

You may also need to supply the school with a spare reliever inhaler for your child to use if they experience symptoms during the school day.

Staff at the school should be able to recognise worsening asthma symptoms and know what to do in the event of an attack, particularly staff supervising sport or physical education.

Your child's school may have an asthma policy in place, which you can ask to see.

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Talk to others

Many people with long-term health conditions such as asthma experience feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.

You may find it helpful to talk about your experience of asthma with others in a similar position. Patient organisations have local groups where you can meet others who have been diagnosed with asthma and have undergone treatment.

If you feel you're struggling to cope, talk to your GP. They will be able to give advice and support. Alternatively, you can find depression support services in your area.

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Financial issues and support

Paying for your medication

Most adults with asthma will need to pay a prescription charge for all of their medicines.

If you need to take a lot of medication, paying for each item individually could get quite expensive. You may find it cheaper to get a prescription prepayment certificate.

This is effectively a prescription "season ticket" where you pay a one-off charge for all your prescriptions over a three or 12 month period.

You won't need to pay for your medicines if you don't normally pay prescription charges. For example, all children under 16 are entitled to free prescriptions.

Read more about prescription costs to find out if you're entitled to help with your prescription charges.

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Depending on how severely asthma affects you on a daily basis, you may be entitled to some benefits, such as:

  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – a benefit paid to people who are not able to work because of ill health or disability
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – a benefit that helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability if you're aged 16 to 64
  • Attendance Allowance – a benefit for help with the extra costs you may have if you're 65 or over and have a physical or mental disability, and need someone to help look after you

If you're on a low income, you may also be entitled to some help with healthcare costs.

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Work-related asthma

If you develop asthma because of your work, and this is fully documented by your doctor and your employer, you can make a claim for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit from the Benefits Agency.

This is a weekly amount paid to people with asthma caused by exposure to a specific substance through their work and is known to be associated with asthma (a list of asthma-causing substances is available from the Health and Safety Executive).

If you want to take legal action against your employer because of occupational asthma, your lawyer must act within three years of diagnosis.

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