Living With – Asthma – Living With
If you or your child has been diagnosed with asthma, work with your doctor to learn how to manage it yourself.
Because asthma symptoms may be different at different times, it is important to know which medicines to use to prevent and relieve symptoms.
You can work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan, called an asthma action plan. Follow-up care will help to make sure your or your child’s asthma is well-controlled.
Staying healthy also includes avoiding asthma triggers and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Follow your asthma action plan- Asthma – Living With
Work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan that works for you. An asthma action plan is a written treatment plan document that describes the following:
- How to identify allergens or irritants to avoid
- How to recognize and handle asthma attacks
- Which medicines to take and when to take them
- When to call your doctor or go to the emergency room
- Who to contact in case of an emergency
If your child has asthma, then all of your child’s caretakers and school staff should know about the asthma action plan. For a sample plan, see the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI’s) Asthma Action Plan.
Receive routine medical care- Asthma – Living With
Regular checkups are important to help your doctor determine how well you are controlling your asthma and adjust treatment if needed. Your doctor will also do regular tests to see how well your lungs are working and how well air is flowing.
Your asthma is well-controlled if you have reached these markers:
- You can do all of your normal activities.
- You do not have symptoms more than twice a week.
- You do not have more than one asthma attack a year requiring corticosteroids by mouth.
- You do not take quick-relief medicines more than two days a week.
- You do not wake from sleep more than one or two times a month because of symptoms
Symptoms in young children who do not have their asthma controlled include fatigue, irritability, and mood changes.
Your doctor will also make sure you are using your inhaler correctly. There are different types of inhalers. Review the way you use your inhaler at every medical visit. Sometimes asthma may get worse because of incorrect inhaler use.
Medical care is also important for managing conditions that can make it harder to treat asthma, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or sinus infections. Work with your doctor to help keep them under control.
Your medicines or dosages may change over time, based on changes in your condition or in your life, such as:
- Age. Older adults may need different treatments because of other conditions they may have and medicines they take. Beta-blockers, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatory medicines can affect asthma.
- Pregnancy. Your asthma symptoms may change during pregnancy. You are also at increased risk of asthma attacks. Your doctor will continue to treat you with long-term medicines such as inhaled corticosteroids. Controlling your asthma is important to prevent complications such as preeclampsia, pre-term delivery, and low birth weight of the baby.
- Surgery. Asthma may increase your risk of complications during and after surgery. For instance, having a tube put into your throat may cause an asthma attack. Talk to your doctor and surgeon about how to prepare for surgery.
Return to Treatment to review possible treatment options for your asthma.
Monitor your asthma at home- Asthma – Living With
Monitoring and managing your asthma at home is important for your health. Ask your doctor about asthma training or support groups. Education can help you understand your asthma, the purpose of your medicines, how to prevent symptoms, how to recognize asthma attacks early, and when to seek medical attention.
Your doctor may show you how to monitor your asthma using a peak flow meter. You can compare your numbers over time to make sure your asthma is controlled. A low number can help warn you of an asthma attack, even before you notice symptoms. Learn how to measure peak flow.
Keeping a diary may help if you find it hard to follow your asthma action plan or the plan is not working well. If you have any of the following experiences, record them in the diary and make an appointment to see your doctor. Bring the diary with you to your appointment.
- You are limiting normal activities and missing school or work.
- You have to use your quick-relief inhaler more than two days a week.
- Your asthma medicines do not seem to work well anymore.
- Your peak flow number is low or varies a lot from day to day.
- Your symptoms occur more often, are more severe, or cause you to lose sleep.
Adopt healthy lifestyle changes- Asthma – Living With
Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following lifestyle changes to help keep asthma symptoms in check:
- Aiming for a healthy weight. Obesity can make asthma harder to manage. Talk to your doctor about programs that can help. Even a 5 to 10 percent weight loss can help symptoms.
- Being physically active. Even though exercise is an asthma trigger for some people, you should not avoid it. Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Talk with your doctor about what level of physical activity is right for you. Ask about medicines that can help you stay active.
- Heart-healthy eating. Eating more fruits and vegetables, and getting enough vitamin D, can provide important health benefits that may help you with asthma control.
- Managing stress. Learn breathing and relaxation techniques, which can help symptoms. Meet with a mental health professional if you have anxiety, depression, or panic attacks.
- Quiting smoking or avoiding secondhand smoke. Smoking tobacco and smoke from secondhand smoke make asthma harder to treat. Visit Smoking and Your Heart and NHLBI’s Your Guide to a Healthy Heart. These resources include basic information about how to quit smoking. For free help and support, you may call the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848).
Prevent worsening of asthma symptoms and attacks- Asthma – Living With
Certain things can set off or worsen asthma symptoms. These are called asthma triggers. Once you know what these triggers are, you can take steps to control many of them.
A common trigger for asthma is exposure to allergens.
- If animal fur triggers asthma symptoms, keep pets with fur out of your home or bedrooms.
- Keep your house as dust-free and mold-free as possible.
- Remove yourself from what is triggering your symptoms in the workplace. If you have occupational asthma, even low levels of the substance to which you are sensitive can trigger symptoms.
- Try to limit time outdoors if allergen levels are high.
Other asthma triggers include:
- Emotional stress. Emotional stress, such as intense anger, crying, or laughing, can cause hyperventilation and airway narrowing, triggering an asthma attack.
- Influenza (flu). Get the flu vaccine each year to help prevent the flu, which can increase the risk of an asthma attack.
- Medicines. Some people who have severe asthma may be sensitive to medicines, such as aspirin, and may experience serious respiratory problems. Tell your doctor about all medicines you or your child currently take.
- Poor air quality or very cold air. Pollution or certain kinds of weather, such as thunderstorms, can affect air quality. Pollution can include indoor pollution caused by gases from inefficient cooking or heating devices that are not vented. Outdoor air pollution may be hard to avoid, but you can keep windows closed and avoid strenuous outdoor activity when air quality is low. For guidance, check the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Air Quality Forecast Guidance.
- Tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke.
Return to Risk Factors to review environments that can trigger asthma.
Prevent and treat complications over your lifetime- Asthma – Living With
To help you prevent complications, your doctor may recommend the following:
- Keeping your medicine dose as low as possible to prevent long-term side effects. High doses over time can increase your risk of cataracts and osteoporosis. A cataract is the clouding of lens in your eye. Osteoporosis is a disorder that makes your bones weak and more likely to break.
- Monitoring your asthma and contacting your doctor if anything changes. When asthma is unmanaged, it can lead to potentially life-threatening asthma attacks. If you are pregnant, it can put the health of your baby at risk.
Learn the warning signs of serious complications and have a plan- Asthma – Living With
Ask your doctor about when to call 9-1-1 for emergency care. It should be written in your asthma action plan.
Call your doctor in these cases:
- Your medicines do not relieve an asthma attack.
- Your peak flow number is low.