Asthma control is a key goal for people who have asthma. Not keeping this chronic condition under control can result in serious health issues down the line. Some aspects of asthma are easier to control than others, but any efforts you make are well worth it.
How do you know if your asthma is under control?
Signs of Positive Asthma Control
- You have symptoms no more often than 2 days a week, and your symptoms wake you less than 1 or 2 times a month
- You are able to do all your normal daily activities without a problem.
- You use your rescue inhaler (quick-relief medicine) no more often than twice a week.
- You have no more than 1 severe asthma attack per year that requires oral steroids.
- Your peak flow readings stay at 80% or better of your personal best.
Here are 7 things you can do that will enhance your asthma control.
1. Start with an Asthma Action Plan.
Every person who has asthma should have an Action Plan. If you don’t have one, talk with your doctor on your next visit to develop one. Asthma Action Plans help you identify if your asthma is under control or flaring, and what actions to take to get back into control.
The plan will spell out symptoms to watch for and whether medications can be added or doses lowered or raised to respond to these symptoms. It will also tell you when you are at high risk of an emergency and when to seek expert help. Be sure to review this plan with your doctor at least yearly.
2. Educate yourself about asthma and your treatment plan.
I am a firm believer in all of us taking a proactive approach to our health. After all, you are the expert when it comes to you and your body! Learn all you can about asthma by consulting reliable sources, such as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI.nih.gov), the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (aaaai.org) or the American Lung Association (lung.org).
Ask lots of questions when you visit your healthcare providers for check ups. Understand each of the medications you take and how to use them effectively, including your inhalers. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to take charge of your asthma.
3. Identify your triggers and take steps to avoid them.
Many people who have asthma also have an allergic component. Certain triggers in your environment can initiate allergy symptoms and also cause your asthma to flare up. Here are a few common triggers:
- Tree, grass and weed pollen
- Indoor & outdoor mold spores
- Pet dander, urine and saliva
- Dust mites
- Insect droppings or stings
- Tobacco or wood smoke
- Some foods
- Exercise, in some cases
Each of us are different and so our triggers may vary as well. Keeping a notebook of your asthma symptoms and when they occur can help you figure out your triggers. Allergy testing can also be done, in some cases. You can talk with your doctor about this option.
Once you know what your triggers are, do what you can to avoid them. It’s hard to avoid all triggers at all times, but any efforts you make can help you stay in control. And when you can’t avoid those triggers, know how to use your rescue inhaler to get back into control.
4. Preserve your respiratory and immune system health.
Asthma is an immune system disorder that results in a chronic inflammation of your airways. Because of that, you are more susceptible to respiratory infections, such as the flu and pneumonia. When you catch those diseases, your already compromised airways may not be able to fight back, and you may end up with a serious asthma attack or even need to be hospitalized.
The best way to stay healthy and preserve your asthma control is to get immunized against the flu each year and against pneumonia every 5 to 10 years. Many people believe they can get the flu from a flu shot, but this is not true. The risks of any side effects from a flu shot are much less than the risks of the flu for people with asthma.
5. Work closely with your health care team.
When you and your health care team work together to develop a treatment plan and to tweak it as needed for you, your asthma is much more likely to stay in control. Keep records of how you are feeling, what triggers your asthma, how often you need to use your rescue inhaler, your peak flow readings and so forth. Share this with your doctor at each visit.
People with asthma should generally plan on meeting with their health care team at least twice a year, more often if your asthma is not under control. This is an opportunity to evaluate your medication and other treatments and make changes as needed. It also gives you the chance to ask any questions you might have.
Most people do great by working closely with their primary care doctors to manage their asthma. However, if asthma control is hard to achieve, you might benefit from working with an asthma care specialist, such as a pulmonologist or allergist.
There is no reason why most people who have asthma cannot lead productive, healthy, vibrant lives. All it takes is to focus on taking care of your health and your airways and keeping your asthma under control most of the time.