Living with Asthma

Living with asthma

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways in the lungs. The airways are small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. In people with asthma, these airways are prone to being inflamed. If an asthma trigger is present, the muscles surrounding the airways contract, so it becomes more difficult to breathe.


What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways in the lungs. The airways are small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. In people with asthma, these airways are prone to being inflamed.
If an asthma trigger is present, the muscles surrounding the airways contract, so it becomes more difficult to breathe.
Asthma can cause a variety of symptoms, including;
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath


What Causes Asthma?

Unfortunately, the causes of asthma are largely unknown. Asthma can start at any age. However, it most commonly starts in childhood. At least 1 in 10 children and 1 in 12 adults have asthma. Asthma can run in families, although many people who develop asthma have no family history of asthma.
Whilst the causes of asthma are not fully known, there are treatments available to ensure people with asthma can manage their condition effectively.


What Can Make Asthma Symptoms Worse?

Asthma symptoms may get worse from time to time. Some people find that symptoms are triggered at certain times or in particular situations.
Allergies can also provide the trigger for asthma symptoms. Some of the most common triggers include:
  • House dust mites
  • Pollen and mould
  • Pets
  • Occupational asthma e.g. flour or wood dust
  • Cold and flu
  • Smoking and cigarette fumes
  • Exercise induced asthma
  • Emotion e.g. stress, emotional upset or laughter
  • Hormones e.g. around puberty, before periods, during pregnancy and during menopause
  • Medicines. Some people with asthma are sensitive to certain medicines. These include aspirin, anti-inflammatory painkillers (e.g. ibuprofen or diclofenac), or beta-blockers used to treat heart disease and glaucoma (e.g. propanolol, atenolol or timolol) 
Your pharmacy can offer you advice and products to help you control your asthma, allergies
and hay fever. Please ask a member of our team for more information.



How to Control Your Asthma Symptoms?

With the use of medicines, avoiding triggers and the latest lifestyle advice, people with asthma can successfully control their condition and get on with enjoying their lives.
The medicines prescribed to you will depend on the severity of your asthma symptoms and the dose may vary. The aim is to be taking the smallest dose of the medicine you need to keep you feeling well. 
Living with asthma - Medications and treatments

Asthma Medication & Treatments

The majority of people living with Asthma are treated with inhalers. Inhalers deliver a small amount of medicine directly to the airways.



Relievers are used ‘as needed' to give rapid relief from symptoms but do not treat the
underlying inflammation. If you need to use your reliever inhaler more than three times
per week, you may also need a preventer inhaler to keep your asthma under control.


Preventers usually contain a form of steroid and help to control the swelling and inflammation in the airways and help prevent asthma attacks. These steroids are very safe and are not addictive. However, not everyone with asthma will need a preventer. The protective effect of preventers builds up over time, so if you are prescribed one, it is important that you take it every day, even if you are feeling well.


A spacer is a large chamber, which is fitted to an inhaler. Instead of inhaling directly from
an inhaler, a dose from the inhaler is sprayed into the spacer and then you inhale from the
other end of the spacer, through a mouthpiece or mask. Spacers make your inhaler easier
to use and more effective. They also reduce the risk of side effects, such as a sore tongue, sore throat or mouth infection.



These inhalers help to relax narrow airways and are used in addition to your preventer.
They go on acting for a longer time than normal. Relievers are usually used twice a day.



There are now combination inhalers available that bring together an inhaled steroid with a
long acting reliever.



If asthma symptoms are not controlled by a regular inhaled preventer and ‘as needed'
reliever, a daily tablet treatment may be prescribed. These do not contain steroids and are
taken along with your preventer inhaler.



If asthma symptoms become difficult to control, the doctor may give you a short course of steroid tablets. These tablets work quickly to reduce inflammation in your airways.
Living with Asthma health advice

Lifestyle Changes That May Help 


Smoking is harmful to everyone, especially for people with asthma as it can permanently damage the airways and reduce the effect of some asthma medicines. If you need help to stop smoking please visit 'Our Services' or 'Pharmacy Locator' pages to see which Alphega branches offer the Stop Smoking Service.



For some people, losing weight can help improve lung function. Combining an active lifestyle with a healthy balanced diet may help you to control your asthma better. Several of our pharmacies offer a Weight Loss Support Service which can give you the relevant advice and support you need.



Exercising regularly keeps the heart, bones and digestive system healthy and helps keep unwanted weight off. The current government recommendation is to have some moderate aerobic exercise 5 or more times a week for 30 minutes.
Aerobic exercise is exercise that increases your breathing and heart rate such, as a brisk walk, cycling, swimming, household cleaning and gardening. Find something that is right for you, which doesn't put a strain on your breathing. You should feel slightly out of breath but not have difficulty breathing. Ask one of our pharmacy team for further advice.

Asthma in Children 

Over 1.1 million children have asthma in the UK. Children with asthma can take control of their symptoms and continue to lead a full and active life.
  • If your child has asthma it is important that the school is aware and knows what to do if your child has an asthma attack
  • Inform the school about the medicines your child is taking for their asthma
  • Ensure that the inhaler that your child takes to school has a dispensing label on it. Ask one of our team if you need an additional label generated for this purpose
  • Provide the school with a spare reliever inhaler and again make sure it has a dispensing label on it
  • Ensure the school has up to date written information about your child's asthma medicines, and the dose they take. The dispensing label may be sufficient for this purpose but check with the school and their requirements



Living with asthma - Infographic



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