Control Your Asthma
It is very important that you take an active role to control asthma if you have been diagnosed with the disease. Asthma is a chronic disease for which there is no cure.
The other side of that is that you can learn to control your asthma and significantly reduce your symptoms by following the advice and treatment plan you put in place with your doctor.
It is very important that you are a willing participant in your asthma plan. You know your body better than anyone else ever can. By taking an active role in your asthma care you can take back control from asthma.
There are a few things you will need to learn to do if you want to control asthma instead of letting asthma control you. The first of these is to not see yourself as a victim. Your attitude will determine your ability to control asthma in many ways.
With proper control you should be able to do anything you want, including competing in sports or simply having a healthy exercise routine. Many professional and Olympic athletes control their asthma and manage to compete at the highest levels. You can do it too.
Here are a few of the things you need to do to take over and control asthma:
Identify Your Triggers
It is important for you to pay attention and identify those things that cause you to have symptoms. Many people are allergic to certain things.
Once you start paying attention and are able to identify those substances (called triggers) you will be able to make a plan on how to avoid them. This will result in a decrease in symptoms.
You may need to wear a mask outdoors when pollen counts are high, or when mowing the yard. It may be that you have to avoid pet dander from cats or dogs. You may have to increase the frequency that you wash your bed linens if you are allergic to dust mites. You may need to call an exterminator if you are allergic to pests that may be hiding in your home. You may need to use your bronchodilator inhaler before going out into the cold air in the winter.
The main thing is that you identify the triggers that affect you. The first step to control your asthma is to identify the things that cause your symptoms.
Take Your Controller Medications
Make sure you fully understand what your medications are supposed to do. Most people with asthma are prescribed a quick acting bronchodilator (we call this a rescue inhaler) and a controller medication ( we call this an anti-inflammatory inhaler). Each one performs a different role. You need to know which one is which, and more importantly what they are used for.
Your quick acting bronchodilator is used to treat sudden symptoms. When you start feeling short of breath or wheezing, that is the time you take your quick acting bronchodilator.
On the other hand, your controller medication is prescribed usually to be taken twice a day. You use it in the morning when you get up and in the evening around the same time every night. These medications are designed to treat the chronic inflammation that is always in your lungs when you have asthma.
Your controller medication may be considered the more important of the two medications for daily control of asthma. Asthma control depends on you taking your controller medication exactly as your doctor has prescribed.
Unfortunately, I see many people who stop taking their controller medication when they start to feel better. This just leads to a vicious circle because the controller medication is what reduces the inflammation in the lungs. Invariably, when they stop taking their controller medications they start having asthma symptoms again.
You may be able to taper down how often you use you quick acting bronchodilator when you feel better, but you should NEVER stop taking your daily controller medication without talking to your doctor.
Use A Peak Flow Meter
So many asthma patients do not use a peak flow meter. Many never received one from their doctor. If you didn’t receive one ask your doctor to prescribe one for you. Then you need to learn to use it and keep a peak flow diary.
The peak flow meter measures the amount of air you can blow out in one quick forceful breath. You need to get your personal best reading on a day when you feel good. Your personal best may improve as you get your asthma under control.
You take your peak flow readings twice a day, before taking any medications in the morning, and preferably in the evening before taking any breathing medications.
You want to write the readings in your diary. We look at the readings as they compare to your personal best, and also at how they vary from morning to night. There is a natural variation of readings from morning to night. However, if the readings vary more than 20% it can indicate that your asthma is not fully under control.
Be sure and share your peak flow diary with your doctor.
Develop An Asthma Action Plan
As asthma action plan is another important component in your quest to control asthma. The asthma action plan gives you a guide on how well you are doing at asthma control.
The asthma action plan typically uses your peak flow readings and a stoplight system to alert you to issues.
If your peak flow readings are in the green zone (80-100% of your personal best peak flow reading) then you are doing well and your asthma is under control.
If they drop into the yellow zone (50-79% of your personal best) then you should exercise caution and increase the use of your quick acting asthma inhaler as your doctor has advised on your action plan. If your peak flow numbers increase back into the green zone you should continue to monitor them.
If your readings fall into the red zone (50% or below of your personal best) this indicates a dangerous condition. You should use your quick acting medication and seek medical attention. You should call your doctor, or if symptoms are severe you should go to the nearest emergency room for further treatment.
Getting early treatment when the peak flow reading drops into the red zone can help to prevent a life threatening asthma attack.
Control your asthma and take back control of your life. By doing all the things listed above you can help yourself remain symptom free as much of the time as possible. Asthma may not have a cure, but it does have treatments that work. They can control your asthma symptoms and by following them you can live a life with very few or no asthma attacks that may land you in the hospital.
The right attitude and the right partnership with your doctor are all you need to succeed.