Here’s How I Obtained Good Asthma Control

So, I’ve been talking about how well controlled my asthma is today. I’ve written more than one article about it. And this lead one reader to ask: “How did you do it? Asthma control seems like such an impossibility.” So, here’s my answer.

Practice managing asthma

My initial answer was this:

“So, you ask how I did it? Well, it took many years of working with my doctor and trialing different medicines. You really have to be open-minded about trying new medicines and being compliant. I had a hard time with compliance when I was a kid. But, what really helped was when asthma medicine changed so you only needed to take it twice a day. So, it really took a long time and a lot of patience.”

That paragraph pretty much sums up 48 years of asthma. Allow me to expound.

Factors contributing to asthma control

Compliance

I had a very hard time with this as a kid. But, with all due respect to my past self, asthma medicines lasted only 4-6 hours. Like, I had to take Vanceril 4 times daily. Back in 1985, I was taking a theophylline pill three times daily on top of that. Plus there were other medicines thrown in there. So, that’s pretty hard to stay compliant with. As noted, most modern medicines last 12-24 hours. Like, you get up in the am and take your medicines. Then you don’t need to think about it again until bedtime. Nice! Much easier to stay compliant this way.

Better medicines

I think each time they come up with a new inhaled corticosteroid it’s stronger and safer. So, that’s why I try to stay open-minded about trying new things.

Side effects

Okay, here’s something you really need to pay attention to. The only medicines I have ever experienced trouble with side effects are beta 2 adrenergics. Alupent was a rescue inhaler. It was awesome at opening airways. But, it would make my heart pound. Still, I needed it. Then they came up with albuterol. Now, regardless of how much I use, I don’t experience any side effects like that. It’s much stronger and safer than that old Alupent inhaler.

Patience

The two medicines that I had trouble adapting to were Symbicort and Singulair. I take both daily now. I wrote about my experience with Singulair here. I took it for many years and felt great. But, it was difficult to know for sure if it was really helping or not. So I quit taking it for a while. My asthma got worse. But, it took a while to realize why it got worse. Eventually, I started taking Singulair again. Now my asthma is better controlled than ever. So, it took probably 10 years for me to realize how well Singulair works for me. So, that’s why I say patience really helped.

Stay tuned to your body

Not easy for me to do. You try a new medicine. You experience symptoms. Is it caused by the medicine or is it just something that’s normal. Not easy to do. Some people are probably better at this than me.

Don’t give up on a medicine

I tried Serevent when it first came out. It made me feel very jittery. So, I gave up on it. But, my doctor didn’t. When Advair came out my doctor wanted me to try it. He said it helped many asthmatics obtain good control. I was afraid because it also contained Serevent. But, I eventually tried it. That was the medicine that really helped me obtain good control. I was 30 years old when I tried it. Singulair was also available at this time. And I took it on and off. But, it would be another 17 years before I realized Singulair definitely helped me.

Initially, when I tried Symbicort it made my heart pound. It was like when I first tried Serevent years ago. But, Symbicort is nice because it’s fast acting. Plus, it costs $50 less than Advair with my current insurance company. So, I didn’t give up on Symbicort. Now I take it every day with Singulair. A combination of these two medicines has helped me obtain my current degree of good asthma control.

What to make of this? So, it took many years. It took lots of research by researchers and new medicines by pharmaceuticals. It took great doctors keeping up with their wisdom and being patient with me. And it took me doing my own research, learning to be compliant, being patient, and having the endurance to keep trying new things.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (4)
  • TracyLee
    2 weeks ago

    John, thank you for the encouraging article. So lifestyle changes (avoiding triggers you might have not been able to avoid as a child) and breathing exercises were less important, not important, or…?

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid some triggers. But, for the most part, as kid I spend lots more time crawling around in the woods, under the steps, hawling wood for dad, etc. These are all things that exposed me to triggers that I am now able to avoid. So, yes, I think having more control of my environment certainly has helped. What about you? John. Site Moderator.

  • TracyLee
    2 weeks ago

    I do extensive trigger avoidance to control my asthma and this is why.

    Spirometry tests confirmed my cough variant asthma is mild. For maintenance the pulmonologist keeps me on montelukast + a corticosteroid. Although helpful, these drugs do not prevent me from coughing up mucus when exposed to triggers such as fine particulates above “20”, only halfway up the “Good “ level on the EPA’s air quality index.

    Indoors, despite the drugs, my coughing is triggered when I am exposed to artificial fragrances, pets and anything that raises particulates, from fireplace smoke to cooking fumes at a family gathering, to dust mites from several people in a room with carpeting and upholstered furniture.

    I am happy to use albuterol to prevent mold and pollen triggers on nature hikes on good air quality days, because I only need to use it twice on a four hour hike. And I’ve gotten used to people staring at me wearing a mask that greatly reduces scents and exposure to pets running loose in the grocery store.

    But I avoid any exposures that requires using albuterol more than three times in eight hours (heart racing, flushing, and I can’t sleep on it) or if I need to eat (which I can’t do in a mask). I have given up plane trips, hotels, restaurants, and volunteer work.

    As a person with merely MILD asthma, I can’t do many of the things you describe you can do, now that you have good control of your SEVERE asthma. Hmm.

  • Shellzoo
    2 weeks ago

    Your last sentence says it all. I am good at compliance, research but patience and endurance are not my strengths. I was on Advair and Intruse this summer and I kept feeling worse every time I used the Intruse. It felt very irritating to my airway. I got to the point I coughed so bad I could not talk in complete sentences. I saw my doctor’s PA and she had me stop the Intruse. I still had the cough a couple weeks later so my doctor had me do a course of doxycycline which worked. When I had my next appointment my doctor still thought I was on the Intruse and was disappointed I stopped it saying the cough might not have been related but, I made sure he knew I was compliant about taking it and every time I used it I felt worse not better. He told me I had other options and I now take Spiriva Respimat. I feel so good after using Spiriva that I look forward to each evening knowing an hour after the dose, I will breath better and be able to sleep. Research, compliance, patience and endurance sums it up. My control might not be perfect yet but, I think I am making the right progress. I enjoy your articles. Thanks!

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