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Tips for Controlling Your Asthma

Asthma that is not well controlled can cause many problems. People miss work or school, go to the hospital, or even die because of their asthma. Controlling asthma according to your treatment plan may help prevent the problems that asthma can cause.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers the following tips to help keep your asthma under control:

Get Proper Care

You can prevent serious problems related to asthma by getting proper care. With the help of your doctor, you can have control over your asthma and become symptom-free most of the time. But remember your asthma does not go away when your symptoms go away. You must take care of your asthma, even if you have a mild case.

Assess Your Symptoms

You may have all of these asthma symptoms, some of them, or just one. Symptoms can be mild or severe and may include:

Signs that your asthma is not well controlled can include any of the following:

Work With Your Doctor

Consider the following tips for working with your doctor on an asthma control plan:

Take the Right Medications at the Right Time

There are 2 main kinds of asthma medications: long-term control medications and short-term (quick-relief or rescue) medications.

Long-term Control Medications

Long-term control medications prevent symptoms and control asthma. It often takes a few weeks before you feel the full effects of this medication. Ask your doctor about taking daily long-term control medications if you:

If you need long-term control medication, you will need to take it each day. Post reminders to yourself to take your medication on time.

For almost everyone with persistent asthma, a long-term control regimen should include a form of inhaled steroid. Ask your doctor if you are not sure whether a steroid is part of your treatment or if it should be.

If you are still having symptoms with a steroid inhaler, other types of long-term control medications can be added.

Short-term, Quick-relief, or Rescue Medications

Inhaled quick-relief medication quickly relaxes and opens your airways and relieves asthma symptoms. But it only helps for about 4 hours. Take quick-relief medication when you first have symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. This can keep you from having a more severe asthma attack. Do not delay!

Tell your doctor if you notice that you’re using more of this medication than usual. This is often a sign that your long-term control medications needs to be increased, changed, or added to.

Use Your Peak Flow Meter Correctly

A peak flow meter helps you to check how well your asthma is controlled, especially if you have moderate to severe asthma. Ask your doctor or other healthcare providers to check how you use your peak flow meter—just to be sure you are using it correctly.

You should use your peak flow meter at the following times:

If you use more than one peak flow meter (such as at home and at school), be sure that both meters are the same brand.

Make sure you keep a record of the readings to share with your doctor during visits.

Avoid Triggers

You can help prevent asthma attacks by staying away from things that make your asthma worse. Keep in mind that some things that make asthma worse for some people are not a problem for others.

Common asthma triggers include:

RESOURCES:

American Lung Association
http://www.lung.org

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
http://www.aafa.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Asthma Society of Canada
http://www.asthma.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Asthma exacerbation in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 2, 2014. Accessed April 14, 2016.

Explore asthma. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma. Updated August 4, 2014. Accessed April 14, 2016.

How to use your peak flow meter. Asthma Initiative of Michigan website. Available at: http://www.getasthmahelp.org/peak-flow-how-to.aspx. Accessed April 14, 2016.

Is your asthma under control? Asthma Initiative of Michigan website. Available at: http://getasthmahelp.org/under-control.aspx. Accessed April 14, 2016.

1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: McLean S, Chandler D, Nurmatov U, et al. Telehealthcare for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(10):CD007717.

Last reviewed April 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 4/14/2016