Asthma & Allergy Awareness, Part 2: How do I Control the Symptoms of Asthma?
While there is no cure for asthma, it can be managed by working with doctors and other healthcare providers to control symptoms. For people living with asthma, having an asthma management plan is the best way to control symptoms and prevent an asthma episode (also known as an “asthma attack” or “asthma flare-up”), which can happen at any time. Generally, there are four parts to your asthma management plan.
Know your asthma triggers and minimize contact with them.
Take your asthma medicines as prescribed.
Track your asthma and recognize early signs that it may be getting worse.
Know what to do when your asthma is getting worse.
People with asthma have inflamed and narrowed airways to the lungs that are sensitive to factors that may not bother other people. These factors (otherwise known as “triggers”) increase the chance of an asthma episode occurring. Asthma triggers vary from person to person, but the most common asthma triggers include:
Allergies or allergens (such as dust mites, pet dander, and pollen),
Irritants in the air (like smoke from cigarettes),
Exercise (especially in cold air),
Weather (including cold air and dry wind), and
Medicines (such as beta-blockers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
To understand more about asthma triggers, watch this short video from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). As you identify your triggers, talk with your doctor about which ones you can avoid and how to best avoid them. Avoiding your triggers is the best way to prevent asthma episodes and your need for medicines. Still, most people with asthma will need at least two different medicines to control their symptoms – one is usually a quick-relief medicine that helps relieve an asthma episode and the other is usually a long-term control medicine that helps prevent and control asthma symptoms.
Asthma medicines are usually inhaled through a small device called a metered dose inhaler, which is also called an inhaler or puffer, or through a dry powder inhaler. Breathing in these medicines allows them to go directly to your lungs. For inhalers to work well, though, you must use them correctly. Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to watch you and check your inhaler technique. If the inhaler is difficult to use, you have some options such as using your inhaler with a holding chamber or spacer, which attach to the inhaler to make it easier to use and to help more medicine reach the lungs. Asthma medicines can also be taken through a machine called a nebulizer, which is an option for anyone who has difficulty using an asthma inhaler. To learn more about the different types of asthma medicines, visit the AAFA and speak to your doctor about which medicines are right for you.
For asthma medicines to work well, they must be used correctly. But more than half (>50%) of people who use asthma inhalers don’t use them properly.
Even though we cannot cure asthma, we can control it with proper management. If you understand your asthma management plan and follow it, you will know exactly what to do in case of an asthma episode or an emergency. If you have any questions at all, ask your doctor. If you were recently diagnosed with asthma or merely would like to know more about managing this chronic disease, download your guide to managing asthma from AAFA to learn more about keeping asthma symptoms under control.
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