Coping with Asthma

Living With Asthma

If you have asthma, you’ll need long-term care. Successful asthma treatment requires that you take an active role in your care and follow your asthma action plan.

Learn How To Manage Your Asthma

Partner with your doctor to develop an asthma action plan. This plan will help you know when and how to take your medicines. The plan also will help you identify your asthma triggers and manage your disease if asthma symptoms worsen.

Children aged 10 or older—and younger children who can handle it—should be involved in creating and following their asthma action plans. For a sample plan, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Asthma Action Plan."

Most people who have asthma can successfully manage their symptoms by following their asthma action plans and having regular checkups. However, knowing when to seek emergency medical care is important.

Learn how to use your medicines correctly. If you take inhaled medicines, you should practice using your inhaler at your doctor's office. If you take long-term control medicines, take them daily as your doctor prescribes.

Record your asthma symptoms as a way to track how well your asthma is controlled. Also, your doctor may advise you to use a peak flow meter to measure and record how well your lungs are working.

Your doctor may ask you to keep records of your symptoms or peak flow results daily for a couple of weeks before an office visit. You'll bring these records with you to the visit. (For more information about using a peak flow meter, go to "How Is Asthma Treated and Controlled?")

These steps will help you keep track of how well you're controlling your asthma over time. This will help you spot problems early and prevent or relieve asthma attacks. Recording your symptoms and peak flow results to share with your doctor also will help him or her decide whether to adjust your treatment.

Ongoing Care

Have regular asthma checkups with your doctor so he or she can assess your level of asthma control and adjust your treatment as needed. Remember, the main goal of asthma treatment is to achieve the best control of your asthma using the least amount of medicine. This may require frequent adjustments to your treatments.

If you find it hard to follow your asthma action plan or the plan isn't working well, let your health care team know right away. They will work with you to adjust your plan to better suit your needs.

Get treatment for any other conditions that can interfere with your asthma management.

Watch for Signs That Your Asthma Is Getting Worse

Your asthma might be getting worse if:

  • Your symptoms start to occur more often, are more severe, or bother you at night and cause you to lose sleep.
  • You're limiting your normal activities and missing school or work because of your asthma.
  • Your peak flow number is low compared to your personal best or varies a lot from day to day.
  • Your asthma medicines don't seem to work well anymore.
  • You have to use your quick-relief inhaler more often. If you're using quick-relief medicine more than 2 days a week, your asthma isn't well controlled.
  • You have to go to the emergency room or doctor because of an asthma attack.

If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. He or she might need to change your medicines or take other steps to control your asthma.

Partner with your health care team and take an active role in your care. This can help you better control your asthma so it doesn't interfere with your activities and disrupt your life.

Source: NHLBI (NIH)1

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If you or your loved ones have asthma, identify your triggers and try to avoid them. Monitor your symptoms, and take prescribed medications regularly.

“For most people with asthma, if you take your prescribed medicines and stay away from the triggers, you’ll do well,” Levine says. Keep your asthma under control so you can keep living life to the fullest.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)2

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Asthma and the Outdoors

If you have asthma:

  • Avoid outdoor activities in the afternoons on warmer days, when the risk of air pollution is highest.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities if the air is polluted. Check your region’s air quality index, which is often reported in the local news. Orange and red mean it’s a bad air day and that children and adults with respiratory diseases should avoid the outdoors. Purple and maroon mean air pollution is extreme and everyone should try to stay inside.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)3

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Self care

There’s no cure for asthma, but most people can control their asthma well and live healthy lives.

Medicine from inhalers (puffers) is the main treatment - but there are other ways to help keep yourself well.

  • Know what triggers your asthma and do your best to avoid those things.
  • Take your medicine exactly as instructed by your doctor.
  • Be prepared - know how to recognise symptoms, and what to do in an emergency.
  • Talk to your doctor about an asthma self-management plan - make sure you follow it.
  • Get vaccinated against the flu each year.

Source: New Zealand Health4

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Living with

With treatment, most people with asthma can live normal lives. There are also some simple ways you can help keep your symptoms under control.

Things you can do

  • use your inhaler correctly - Asthma UK has information about using your inhaler, and you can ask your nurse or GP for advice if you're still not sure
  • use your preventer inhaler or tablets every day - this can help keep your symptoms under control and prevent asthma attacks
  • check before taking other medicines - always check the packet to see if a medicine is suitable for someone with asthma, and ask a pharmacist, doctor or nurse if you're not sure
  • don't smoke - stopping smoking can significantly reduce how severe and frequent your symptoms are
  • exercise regularly - exercise shouldn't trigger your symptoms once you're on appropriate treatment; Asthma UK has advice about exercising with asthma
  • eat healthily - most people with asthma can have a normal diet
  • get vaccinated - it's a good idea to have the annual flu jab and the one-off pneumococcal vaccination

Source: NHS Choices UK5

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Talking to others

Many people with long-term health conditions such as asthma experience feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.

You may find it helpful to talk about your experience of asthma with others. Patient organisations have local groups where you can meet people who have been diagnosed with asthma and have undergone treatment.

If you feel you're struggling to cope, talk to your GP. They will be able to give advice and support. Alternatively, you can find depression support services in your area.

Source: NHS Choices UK6

School Issues with Asthma

Asthma and Schools

Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. On average, in a classroom of 30 children, about three are likely to have asthma. Low-income populations, minorities, and children living in inner cities experience more emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths due to asthma than the general population.

When children and adolescents are exposed to things in the environment—such as dust mites, and tobacco smoke—an asthma attack can occur. These are called asthma triggers.

Asthma-friendly schools are those that make the effort to create safe and supportive learning environments for students with asthma. They have policies and procedures that allow students to successfully manage their asthma.

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)7

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Asthma and Physical Activity

Exercise-induced asthma is triggered by physical activity. Vigorous exercise will cause symptoms for most students who have asthma if their asthma is not well-controlled. Some students experience asthma symptoms only when they exercise. However, proper asthma treatment will prevent exercise-induced asthma and help students participate vigorously in any activities the student chooses.

Asthma varies from student to student and often from season to season or even day by day. Students who have asthma should have a written asthma plan and appropriate medicine at school to prevent symptoms. At times, physical activity programs for these students may need to be temporarily modified, such as by varying the type, intensity, duration, and/or frequency of activity. At all times, students who have asthma should be included in activities as much as possible. Remaining behind in the gym or library or frequently sitting on the bench can set the stage for teasing, loss of self-esteem, unnecessary restriction of activity, and low levels of physical fitness.

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)8

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Asthma at school

Most children with well-controlled asthma can learn and participate in school activities without being affected by their condition.

But it's important to ensure the school has up-to-date written information about your child's asthma medicines, including what they are, how much they take and when they need to take them.

You may also need to supply the school with a spare reliever inhaler for use if your child experiences symptoms during the school day.

Staff at the school should be able to recognise worsening asthma symptoms and know what to do in the event of an attack, particularly staff supervising sport or physical education.

Your child's school may have an asthma policy in place, which you can ask to see.

Asthma UK has more about asthma at school and nursery.

Source: NHS Choices UK9

Parent Issues with Asthma

Tips to Help Parents Manage Their Child's Asthma Every Day

There are six steps that can help control asthma:

  1. Use inhaled corticosteroids if your child has persistent asthma (for example, symptoms more than 2 days a week). Your health provider will help you choose the best treatment for your child's asthma.
  2. Use a written action plan to tell your child and your child's caregivers two things: 1) what to do daily to control your asthma, and 2) how to handle symptoms or asthma attacks and when to get medical attention
  3. Work with your doctor to assess asthma severity during the first visit to determine what treatment is needed to get your child's asthma under control
  4. Assess and monitor how well your child's asthma is controlled at all follow-up visits. The doctor may need to increase your child's medicine to keep his or her asthma under control, or may be able to decrease his or her medicine.
  5. Schedule follow-up visits ("asthma check-ups") with your child's doctor at regular times, at least every 6 months.
  6. Work with your healthcare provider to identify allergens or irritants that make your child's asthma worse, and learn how to avoid them. If needed, use a treatment plan that helps your child participate actively in physical activities and exercise.

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)10

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  1. Source: NHLBI (NIH): health/ health-topics/ topics/ asthma/ livingwith
  2. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): issue/ jun2014/ feature1
  3. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): 2008/ May/ docs/ 01features_02.htm
  4. Source: New Zealand Health: your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses/ asthma
  5. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ asthma/ living-with/ 
  6. ibid.
  7. Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH): magazine/ issues/ fall13/ articles/ fall13pg14.html
  8. ibid.
  9. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ asthma/ living-with/ 
  10. Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH): magazine/ issues/ fall13/ articles/ fall13pg16.html

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.