Coping With Asthma

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2023

Asthma affects your life in many ways. Asthma symptoms can interfere with daily activities. Managing asthma can be stressful or overwhelming. Many people with asthma also have other ongoing (chronic) conditions. Coping with the burden of asthma can improve your physical and mental health.1

Asthma is different for everyone. You are the expert on your own experience. Your doctor can suggest the best tests and medicines based on the information you share. But coping with asthma requires self-management. Make sure your asthma action plan works for you.2

Keeping your asthma under control

Keeping symptoms under control can reduce the burden of asthma. It can reduce your need for medicines. It can also prevent symptoms from interfering with sleep and other activities. The best ways to control symptoms are to:3

  • Self-manage your asthma by learning as much as possible, staying consistent with using your inhaler, and tracking your asthma symptoms
  • Communicate with your doctor to make treatment decisions together

Self-managing asthma can seem overwhelming. It may help to ask for support from your doctor, friends, family, or therapist. Learning as much as possible about asthma can increase your confidence. There are many educational programs available. You can use them to learn more about the condition.4

Tracking to improve asthma control

Tracking symptoms at home is an important part of self-management. For example, you can:5

  • Monitor how often you have symptoms during the day and at night
  • Track how often you use your quick-relief inhaler
  • Observe if normal activities are harder because of asthma

Keeping track of symptoms, appointments, and medicines can be stressful. Written tools can help you stay organized. They can help you identify triggers and know what to do during asthma attacks. They can also help you take your medicine at the right time. Studies have shown that these tools improve asthma management.6

Some written tools to use to manage asthma include:2,5

  • A list of medicines you take for asthma and other conditions
  • A list of questions and discussions for your doctor
  • An asthma action plan that tells you how to recognize asthma attacks and how to respond
  • A diary of symptoms, medicine use, and peak flow readings
  • A calendar of all your doctor’s appointments

Different methods work better for different people. Some people find that electronic versions are the easiest. Ask your doctor for diary templates or apps they recommend. Many apps can track symptoms and medicines. These provide automatic reminders for medicines and appointments. They can also send information to your doctor.6

Communicating with your doctor

Making the most of your doctor’s visits can also improve self-management. With open and honest communication, you and your doctor can work together to find the best treatments. Some ways to get the most out of medical appointments are to:5,7

  • Bring your medical records, list of medicines, and symptom diaries to all appointments
  • Work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan
  • Talk openly about symptom patterns, medicines, and side effects
  • Confirm you use your inhaler properly at each visit
  • Ask questions about medicines and tests
  • Ask how to use peak flow meters and other ways to monitor lung function at home

It can be hard to remember details to answer your doctor’s questions. Tools can make it easier to give detailed responses to your doctor.6

Managing mental health

People with asthma have a higher risk of anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are also linked to worse asthma symptoms. Common symptoms of anxiety include:8,9

  • Feelings of panic and fear
  • Obsessive thoughts that are hard to control
  • Shakiness or muscle tension
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Increased heart rate

Common symptoms of depression include:8

  • Loss of interest in activities you enjoy
  • Feeling frustrated, irritable, sad, anxious, worthless, or guilty
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Headaches or pain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue or difficulty sleeping

Anxiety and depression are linked to worse asthma, especially in children. Anxiety and depression can make it harder to manage asthma. It can be harder to track symptoms and take medicine. Anxiety and depression increase the risk of:9-11

  • Frequent asthma attacks
  • Intense asthma symptoms
  • Visits to the emergency department

Treating anxiety and depression can improve asthma control and symptoms. Work with your doctor to find ways to improve your mental health. This may include:12-14

  • Identifying and reducing any causes of stress
  • Practicing relaxation exercises
  • Getting enough exercise and sleep
  • Finding support from family and friends
  • Finding support groups for you or your child
  • Talking to a counselor or therapist
  • Taking medicines

Other lifestyle changes

A healthy lifestyle can help keep asthma controlled. Some steps to take include:15

  • Getting enough sleep and relaxation
  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding or reducing exposure to triggers

There is no specific diet or exercise routine that works for everyone. Good nutrition and exercise can help you:15

  • Lower inflammation
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Reduce stress

Work with your doctor to come up with diet and exercise plans. Together, you can make sure plans are safe and work for you.15

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