Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. People with asthma have symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing. Asthma can be controlled with medication and by avoiding triggers that can make symptoms worse. It is important to monitor your asthma and know what to do if you have an asthma attack.
Step 1: Know Your Asthma Triggers
Asthma triggers are different for everyone. Common triggers include:
- Allergens from pets, pollen, dust mites, and mold
- Cigarette smoke
- Cold air
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Respiratory infections
- Strong emotions
- Weather changes
Keep track of when you have asthma symptoms and what you were doing when they started. This will help you figure out what your triggers are. Once you know your triggers, you can try to avoid them.
Step 2: Take Your Medication as Prescribed
If you have asthma, you will likely need to take medication every day. This is called maintenance or controller medication. It helps to prevent asthma symptoms and keep the airways open. Common maintenance medications include:
- Inhaled corticosteroids
- Leukotriene modifiers
- Long-acting beta-agonists
You may also need to take quick-relief medication when you have asthma symptoms. Quick-relief medication helps to open the airways and make breathing easier. It is important to take quick-relief medication as prescribed. Common quick-relief medications include:
- Inhaled short-acting beta-agonists
- Oral or intravenous corticosteroids
Step 3: Monitor Your Asthma
It is important to monitor your asthma and know what to do if you have an asthma attack. There are two types of asthma monitors:
- Peak flow meter: A peak flow meter is a handheld device that measures how well air is flowing out of your lungs. You can use it to check your asthma symptoms and see how well your asthma is controlled.
- Asthma diary: An asthma diary is a record of your asthma symptoms and how well your asthma is controlled. You can use it to track your asthma triggers and see how well your asthma medication is working.
You should also know the signs of an asthma attack. Asthma attacks can happen suddenly and can be life-threatening. Signs of an asthma attack include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Rapid breathing
- Pale or blue skin
If you have any of these signs, you should use your quick-relief medication and call 911.
Step 4: See Your Doctor Regularly
If you have asthma, you should see your doctor at least once a year. Your doctor will check your asthma and make sure your medication is working. He or she may also do tests to check how well your lungs are working. These tests may include:
- Spirometry: This test measures how well air is flowing out of your lungs.
- Chest x-ray: This test can show if there is any damage to your lungs.
- Pulse oximetry: This test measures how much oxygen is in your blood.
Your doctor may also ask you to keep an asthma diary. This will help him or her see how well your asthma is controlled.
Step 5: Create an Asthma Action Plan
An asthma action plan is a written plan that tells you what to do if you have asthma symptoms. It is important to have an asthma action plan and to share it with your family, friends, and doctor. Your asthma action plan should include:
- Your asthma triggers
- Your asthma medication
- What to do if you have asthma symptoms
- What to do if you have an asthma attack
You can get an asthma action plan from your doctor or from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. You can also create your own asthma action plan using the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of Americas Asthma Action Plan Tool.
Step 6: Get Vaccinated
If you have asthma, you should get vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia. These vaccines can help to prevent respiratory infections, which can trigger asthma symptoms. You should also get the whooping cough vaccine if you are pregnant or if you will be around young children.
Step 7: Join an Asthma Support Group
If you have asthma, you may want to join an asthma support group. These groups can provide support and information for people with asthma and their families. You can find an asthma support group in your area by visiting the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of Americas website.