Ask the Advocates: Asthma Self-Care Practices
At the start of a new year, people often reflect on the year past and set goals or intentions for the year to come. People can sometimes center these intentions around their health and general well-being. Dedicating time to self-care is important, and can be hard to do if you live with a busy schedule, and have a chronic illness like asthma.
We asked our advocate team, “What are your best self-care practices and asthma-related tips?” Here is what they had to say.
Asthma-related self-care from our advocates
I think the best place to start is by simply taking action to take care of yourself. Make sure you see a doctor on a regular basis. If your primary care doctor is unable to help you in a certain area, don't be afraid to ask for a referral to an asthma specialist. The asthma specialist I see is an ENT (ear-nose-throat doctor). This is mainly because I have allergic asthma, and ENTs are the specialists in dealing with the entire airway.
I would also say, follow your treatment regimen as best you can. This includes anything from taking your medicine as prescribed to learning your asthma triggers and making gallant efforts to control these triggers.
I would recommend having an asthma action plan of some sort. This plan will help you decide what actions to take should your asthma flare-up. Should you call your doctor? Should you go to the ER? Your plan should help you decide what to do. And learn your early warning symptoms, and take swift actions when you experience them. This is the best way to stave off a full-fledged asthma attack.
I give these tips based on my own experiences as an asthmatic. Although these are the same tips I share with my asthmatic patients. Trust me, they work.
Leon shared his experience:
Over the many years that I have lived with asthma, self-care practices for me have changed considerably. In the early years, when first diagnosed, by working with my physician, I was able to treat myself (self-care), by using the medication du jour. Typically, in those years, I was able to use inhalers like Primatene Mist (over-the-counter), the Bronkometer (Isoetharine), Isuprel (isoproterenol) and Alupent (metaproteronol). Various other medications included Tedral, Theophylline, and prednisone. But that was then!
Now, the pharmaceutical arsenal available to me (in collaboration with my physician(s)), has changed and improved rather dramatically.
Today, remaining keenly aware of my condition and its triggers has helped me to avoid situations that might provoke an attack. And, my medication regimen is largely responsible for keeping this condition under control. I know to avoid animal dander, smoky backyard fires, cigarette/cigar smoke, caustic cleaning agents, and environmental pollutants. As well, when cleaning the house and or dusting, I generally wear a protective mask over my nose and mouth, eye-protective shields, and gloves. Once the cleaning is completed, I will remove all the protective gear and thoroughly wash my face and hands.
This, for me, has been completely effective and fool-proof. How do I know? It's easy. There were times when I tried cleaning without taking the necessary precautions and the condition began to act up!! So, I am always cognizant of this and move forward accordingly and always take the necessary precautions!
As you may imagine, there are those times when exposure to triggers happen without warning. In those cases, once recognized, I immediately and discreetly remove myself from the environmental insult. If I sense that I am reacting to a trigger, once I'm removed from the scene, I work towards calming myself and practice pursed-lip breathing. I cannot say enough about that particular technique and how well it works for me in practically every situation.
Becky suggests some self-care practices:
- Buy a 90-day supply of asthma meds when possible. Pharmacy shortages can happen anytime, especially during a pandemic when some asthma meds are being used more frequently to treat COVID-related symptoms.
- Clean your inhalers. They do get gunky and gross inside. Just like you clean your drinking glasses and dishes, inhaler cleanliness is important to overall hygiene and health.
- Gargle with water for 5 seconds after using an inhaled steroid. The residual powder can build up in the back of your throat and turn into thrush.
- Advocate for yourself and your health. We are in a pandemic with a virus that affects the respiratory system. Whether you need a vaccine, a booster, a change in your asthma treatment plan, or more support from friends and family, don’t be afraid to advocate for what you need to be well.
- Be an asthma ambassador. Asthma isn’t something to hide or be ashamed of, but it may take some education for friends and loved ones to understand how it affects you. If it is safer for you to not do certain activities because of your asthma, it is a positive thing to teach the other people in your life about it.
- Don’t be cavalier with your health. I have made some poor choices with overdosing on rescue inhalers, not having a long-term asthma treatment plan, and doing activities that aren’t good for my health. As a result, I have ended up in the hospital with asthma attacks as an adult. Nothing is worth risking your health and life.
And Patti wrote:
The most important way I take care of myself is by doing just that. I put my health first.
Staying as active as my asthma will allow is part of my regimen. Even on bad days, I try really hard to do something that gets me moving. It may not be for long but it is movement and that is helpful. I also try not to be so hard on myself. Instead of being disappointed that I couldn't get up the steps without a break, I just push through and know that some days are just like that.
Taking all of my medications exactly as directed is so very important. Asthma is not to be trifled with, it will not respond well to a haphazard approach to medication administration.
It has also become second nature for me to consider how any trip into unfamiliar territory may impact my asthma. That trip could be anything - a new city, a new climate, a new food, anything. I know that if it is different, it may have consequences. Having asthma requires lots of diligence in almost every aspect of my life.
Also, because my asthma is weather-sensitive I do not go out the door without checking the weather and the air quality. These little tools are so helpful in planning my day and knowing my exposure and risks for the day. I prefer to get a great deal of my exercise by walking and doing other outdoor activities. Some days I just do not go out the door. On those days I find an online workout that I can do indoors so I've gotten some exercise. It's good for the body and the mind!
Are these the only forms of asthma-related self-care?
As you can tell by the variety of tips and practices our advocates use, there are many different ways to practice self-care, and these are not the only ones out there! Everyone is different in what works best for them, and it is important to find something that works for you.
Some forms of self-care can look like speaking to your doctors, advocating about asthma to your loved ones for support, taking all your medications as prescribed, cleaning equipment, and being self-aware of triggers and environment. There are many more out there! What forms of self-care do you use to manage your asthma and take care of yourself?
Does cold weather impact your asthma?