Asthma is under control if it is not interfering with your everyday life and prevents normal activities. For example, you easily sleep without symptoms through the night, have few or no symptoms after exercise, and complete your daily routine without using a quick-relief medication or minimal basis. However, if you experience any signs or disruptions, consult your healthcare provider to improve your asthma management.
When asthma patients think about managing symptoms, they often focus on medications that address their respiratory issues. However, they must take a broader view of health and consider lifestyle factors that may impact their breathing.
Some ways to control your asthma are to avoid asthma triggers, use medication properly, work with your health care provider to develop your asthma action plan, and have regular checkups. You also need to know what triggers your asthma and the warning signs. Also, you must know when to seek emergency medical care for your asthma symptoms.
The triggers of asthma are specific to each person. Therefore, people with asthma need to know what triggers their asthma and how to avoid those triggers. The two primary asthma triggers are irritants (which bother airways) and allergens (which cause watery eyes, sneezing, or a runny nose). Some common triggers include:
Extreme hot or cold weather
Animals with fur and feathers
Dust and dust mites
Rodent and cockroaches
Strong emotions that cause changes in breathing patterns
Learning the irritants and allergens that trigger your asthma will help you avoid those triggers and manage your asthma. Although it’s not possible to control specific triggers, like pollen levels, there are certain ways to make your home trigger-free for easier breathing.
No one-size-fits-all approach exists to manage asthma. For some, asthma may be a minor inconvenience; for others, it may be a severe or life-threatening condition. Some people may seldom experience asthma symptoms in response to specific triggers. In contrast, others may have frequent and severe symptoms to interfere with daily activities. There are also different types of asthma, like allergy-induced asthma and exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), asthma that’s triggered by physical exertion. Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. The common asthma symptoms include:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
Mostly, a person with asthma feels early warning signs that his asthma might flare up. The symptoms may tell you something is wrong before your asthma worsens. Early warning signs include:
- Breathing changes
- Throat clearing and/or itchiness
- Trouble with sleeping
- Chin itchiness
Knowing your asthma triggers, symptoms, and warning signs is vital so you can use medication promptly and appropriately.
Asthma Action Plan
An asthma action plan enlists the steps to prevent or manage an asthma episode. This plan is customised just for you. Persons living with asthma must have their asthma action plan, a written document that enlists the following information:
- Signs of an asthma attack
- Correct and timely use of medications
- What to do if you have asthma symptoms or a low peak flow reading
- When to seek emergency care
- Emergency contact information
An Asthma Episode
Even with proper asthma management, it may still flare up from time to time. Once asthma flares up, it is an asthma episode or maybe an asthma attack. An episode may occur if a person with asthma is exposed to a trigger and shows any warning signs. These may include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Strictly follow your asthma action plan to relieve your symptoms. If the condition does not improve in 10-15 minutes, check for signs of an asthma emergency.
Signs of an Asthma Emergency
An asthma emergency occurs when you go through your asthma action plan and asthma symptoms still prevail after 10-15 minutes. The signs that you are having an asthma emergency are:
- Wheezing, coughing, chest tightness
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty talking (unable to finish a sentence)
- Trouble walking
- Skin sucking in by the neck or ribs
- Fingernails or lips turning pale, blue or grey
Any of these symptoms means your asthma is severe and may be life-threatening. Use your reliever medicine immediately and tell someone you are experiencing an asthma emergency. Then, go to the emergency room.
Medications That Relieve and Control Asthma Symptoms
Your healthcare provider will recommend asthma medications that work best for you based on your symptoms. The two common types of asthma medicines are:
Quick-Relief Medication (Reliever)
Everyone with asthma must have access to quick-relief medication with a metered-dose inhaler. The quick-relief medicine treats asthma symptoms when they first begin. Within 10 to 15 minutes of use, the quick-relief medication should work to reduce the squeezing of the muscles around the airways. If your doctor prescribes a quick-relief asthma inhaler, try to carry it at all times.
Long-term Control Medication (Controller)
This type of medication is for daily use whether you are experiencing symptoms or not. These medications reduce airway inflammation or mucus production. This makes your airways less sensitive to the triggers and prevents asthma attack before it happens. Not everyone with asthma requires long-term control medication. Your healthcare provider will determine the asthma severity and whether you need one.
Each time you use an inhaler, it is vital to use a spacer or holding chamber. This device helps get more medication into the lungs.
Take a Whole Body Approach to Manage Asthma
Always consult your doctor about specific symptoms and medications. Also, you should evaluate your lifestyle, sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress management and environmental factors. These things are all connected. They are not isolated. Lungs work with every organ in the body, so if something else is not working in order, it might affect your lungs. Prioritise your health and adopt these lifestyle changes that may help lessen the frequency of asthma attacks.
- Prioritise good sleep and relaxation. People who do not get enough sleep regularly struggle to control their immune system, which plays a massive role in lung health.
- You must keep your weight in a healthy range. Exercise is crucial for your overall health. Yet it is less commonly known that it may help keep airway inflammation under control. So it’s pretty reasonable that people with asthma may be concerned about what kind of exercise to do or whether it’s safe to work out. But exercise is essential if you have asthma for overall health and to keep the lungs healthy.
- Forget junk food. Instead, focus on vegetables and fresh fruits and lean meats. Following an anti-inflammatory diet may play a valuable role in asthma management. It includes eating fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. Limit carbohydrates and alcohol intake. Strive for a healthy diet that does not promote inflammation.
- Controlling stress and anxiety must be a priority. The mind is very powerful and influential. Activities like yoga or meditation may create a calming effect and help with lung health.
- Never skip doctor’s appointments. Take medicines as your doctor prescribes and refill prescriptions before they run out. You must follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for your asthma treatment. Design a detailed asthma action plan with your doctor that contains information about what medications you take (the prescribed dosage and when to take them), as well as what to do if your drugs do not relieve symptoms like wheezing, coughing, chest pain, or shortness of breath. An asthma action plan must also have a section that explains what to do in an emergency. It also includes essential information, like emergency telephone numbers of your family, healthcare providers, and friends.
- Share copies of your action plan with loved ones and coworkers. If your child has asthma, the child’s teachers and school nurse must also have a copy.
- Stay updated with your vaccinations, especially influenza and pneumonia.
- Your home must be asthma-friendly Identify and minimise common indoor asthma triggers, such as mould, pet dander, mites, dust, cigarette smoke, and chemical irritants (like paint, cleaning agents, and air fresheners). Some intelligent strategies for managing asthma triggers include designating pet-free zones in the house (bedrooms). For washing, bedding, mopping, and vacuuming, use a face mask or a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Try keeping doors and windows closed on days when pollen counts are high and air quality is poor.
Your asthma is not bothersome as long as your symptoms are not interfering with your routine life. The preventive ways to control asthma are to avoid asthma triggers, use medication properly, work with your health care provider to write an asthma action plan, and have regular checkups. In addition, a person with asthma must know what triggers his condition and the warning signs. He must also know when to seek emergency medical care for asthma symptoms.
Health should be a priority, so try adopting specific lifestyle changes to lessen the frequency of your asthma attacks.