Take Action to Control Your Asthma
Asthma is a chronic disease, which means there is no cure. But asthma does not have to control you. There are many things you can do to take action and control your asthma, so that you can live an active, high-quality life.
Depending on how severe your asthma is, getting it under control may not be easy. But any steps you can take toward better control will be well worth your effort. But what does asthma control really mean?
Well, asthma control is defined by:
- the degree to which asthma symptoms are prevented or lessened
- how much you can reduce your need for quick-relief medication
- how well you can breathe
- whether asthma stops you from being active or sleeping well
- being able to prevent asthma attacks that land you in the emergency room or the hospital
Action Steps for Better Asthma Control
Here are the action steps you can take to achieve better asthma control.
1. Work closely with your doctor
Asthma control begins when you work together with the members of your health care team to find the best treatment approach for you. Your doctor will assess your health status and your lung condition. This helps determine what level of asthma you have and the best treatment approach.
Treatment is often somewhat a matter of trial and error because everyone reacts differently to medication. So be sure you are open and clear when you talk to your doctor about how you have been feeling and how you're responding to the medication s/he provides.
2. Learn all you can about asthma
The more you know, the better prepared you will be to manage your asthma. When you visit your doctor, ask questions. Make sure you understand what is going on with your body and what to expect from your treatment.
Take time to read about asthma too, on reputable websites like this one. Perhaps you will want to buy a book about asthma to learn even more.
3. Develop an Asthma Action Plan with your doctor
Every person with asthma should have an individualized Asthma Action Plan to guide you in managing your asthma from day to day. This type of plan is usually organized into 3 stoplight-colored zones that identify how well controlled your asthma is.
- Greenmeans you're doing well
- Yellowmeans control is slipping & asthma is getting worse
- Redmeans your asthma may be out of control and you'll need to seek medical help
An Asthma Action Plan contains these elements:
- Your medications and when to take them
- Symptoms to be on the lookout for that mean your asthma is getting worse
- Steps to take at each level of control
- When to contact your doctor
You can find a worksheet to help you develop your own plan at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation website.
4. Identify your asthma triggers and take steps to avoid them
Most people who have asthma have the allergic type. This means that your asthma symptoms arise when you are exposed to certain things in the environment called allergens. When you come into contact with allergens that you are sensitive to, then your airways overreact, resulting in asthma symptoms.
Common allergens include:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Tree, grass and weed pollen
- Mold spores
- Insect droppings (cockroaches most commonly)
Not everyone who has asthma is sensitive to all of these substances, but most are sensitive to at least a couple of them. Allergy testing can be done by a doctor who specializes in treating allergies and asthma. You can also keep a journal describing when your symptoms occur, and what you were doing before they started. This may help you identify what your asthma triggers might be.
Once you know which things trigger your asthma, you can start to take steps to avoid coming into contact with them. For example, if you're sensitive to pollen, then you might stay indoors more when pollen counts are high. It's impossible to avoid most allergens 100%, but anything you can do will help improve your level of asthma control.
5. Take your medications
Most people with asthma will need to be on some sort of asthma medication. This is the foundation of asthma control. There are various types of medication that can be prescribed, but it is likely that you will be prescribed:
- Some type of daily or twice daily controller medication. This type of medication, usually an inhaled steroid, helps calm the inflammation in your airways and prevent symptoms.
- A quick-relief, short-acting bronchodilator. This type of medication is only used as needed, when symptoms arise.
6. Track your asthma control
Keeping track of your asthma will help you notice quickly when control is slipping. That will help you take action before an asthma emergency occurs. There are 2 main things you can track:
- Your symptoms: What they are, how severe they are, when they occur and what relieves them.
- Your peak flow readings: If you use a peak flow meter, a small, handheld device that measures how well air is moving in and out of your lungs, it can can help warn you of an asthma attack, even before you notice symptoms.
Be sure to share your tracking data with your health care team.
How to Know If Your Asthma Is Not Controlled
Your Asthma Action Plan should guide you in this, because it is specific to you. However, these are the general guidelines for knowing when asthma is not under control:
- You have symptoms no more than 2 days a week, and these symptoms don't wake you from sleep more than 1 or 2 nights a month.
- You can do all your usual daily activities.
- You take quick-relief medicines no more than 2 days a week.
- You have no more than one asthma attack a year that requires you to take corticosteroids by mouth.
- Your peak flow doesn't drop below 80 percent of your personal best number.
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