Manage your severe asthma

Find out how the basics of good asthma management, working with your healthcare team, and looking after your general health can lower your risk of symptoms and asthma attacks

Five ways to manage your severe asthma well

1. Use an asthma action plan

An asthma action plan has all the information you need in one place. It reminds you how to look after your asthma every day.

And it tells you what to do if your asthma gets worse. For example, your GP may suggest that you increase the dose of your preventer medicines or start a course of steroid tablets.

If you’ve been prescribed a nebuliser to use at home, you need to follow your nebuliser treatment plan too. It’s not safe to use a nebuliser at home without a plan agreed with your consultant.

2. Take your medicines every day as prescribed

It’s important to work with your healthcare team to get the best treatment plan for you, so you can lower your risk of symptoms and asthma attacks.

But it can sometimes be a challenge keeping to your medicines routine every day. If you have severe asthma, you may have lots of different medicines that you need to take. It can also be difficult to remember to take your usual medicines if you’re feeling down or unwell.

We also know that some people are tempted to skip their medicines because of concerns about side effects. Studies have found that between one third and one half of medicines prescribed for long-term conditions are not taken as prescribed.

Make it easier with our top tips for keeping on top of your medicines.

3. Monitor symptoms and triggers

When you’re getting a lot of symptoms, it’s easy to lose track of what symptoms you had, when, and what might have triggered them. You may even get used to difficult symptoms and think they’re normal for you.

Tracking symptoms can help you feel more in control. It can make a difference to how you and your doctor manage your severe asthma well.

Find out more about tracking symptoms or monitoring peak flow.

4. Avoid triggers when you can

Once you’ve worked out what things trigger your symptoms, you can start to avoid them if possible. Ask friends and family to help where they can, like not smoking around you or keeping pets away.

Find out more about asthma triggers.

5. Go to all your asthma reviews and appointments

Make the most of your asthma review appointments. And always go to follow-up appointments after.

See your GP or asthma nurse if

you’re using your reliever inhaler three or more times a week. It’s a sign your asthma is not well-controlled.

Support from your healthcare team

Your doctor and your specialist team, need to work with you to find the best treatment plan for you and your type of severe asthma.

To make sure your treatment plan is personal to you and that you can get the most benefits from it, your doctor or specialist team should work with you to:

  • understand your symptoms, what makes them worse and what helps them
  • deal with any side effects from your medicines, including any interactions with other medicines you take
  • look at other related conditions which could be making your asthma worse
  • talk honestly about lifestyle and anything that could be making symptoms worse, like smoking, stress, or excess weight
  • find solutions to help you stick to your medicine routine
  • help you reduce your medicines safely if you’re able to
  • help you benefit from other specialists in the clinic, for example psychologists, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists.

Ask for a referral

Ask your GP to refer you to a specialist if any of the following apply to you:

  • you’re still getting symptoms even though you and your GP have tried all the recommended treatment options and you’ve taken these as prescribed
  • you’re using 12 or more reliever inhalers in a year OR
  • you need two or more courses of steroid tablets in a year OR
  • you’re on maintenance steroid tablets (using them ongoing) OR
  • you’ve had a life-threatening asthma attack, attended A&E or been hospitalised with asthma in the last year.

Find out more about getting a referral to specialist asthma care.

Look after your physical and mental health

If you smoke, get help to quit

Smoking puts you at risk of asthma attacks and can stop your asthma medicines working well. Over time, smoking increases your risk of getting other lung diseases such as COPD.

There’s a lot of support available to help you quit.

Keep to a healthy weight

Severe asthma is harder to control if you’re overweight or obese.

There’s evidence to show if you lose excess weight, you’re likely to see benefits to your asthma.

Getting to a healthy weight also lowers your risk of an asthma attack and needing to go to hospital because of your asthma.

Find out more about keeping to a healthy weight with severe asthma.

Stay active

Alongside a healthy diet, regular physical activity can improve your lung function and help to manage your severe asthma symptoms.

Being active may also help you to manage some of the common side effects of steroids, like weight gain, tiredness, anxiety, and depression.

Find out more about staying active with severe asthma.

Ask about vaccines

  • Flu can trigger asthma symptoms and put you at risk of an asthma attack. You can support your asthma management by getting the flu vaccine every autumn so you’re ready for flu season.
  • Ask your doctor about the one-off pneumonia vaccine
  • We know that people with severe asthma can be more at risk from coronavirus. Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.

Take care of your mental well-being

Your mental well-being can affect how well you manage your severe asthma. Common mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can make managing asthma symptoms harder.

Find out more about looking after your mental health and well-being when you have severe asthma.

More help and support

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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