Are asthma attacks getting the best of you? Do you find yourself sitting on the sidelines when it seems like everyone else is out enjoying the game? There are some things you can do to take better control of your asthma condition. Put some of the following tips and tricks into effect to prevent asthma flare-ups and live a fuller, active life.
Use an asthma action plan
An asthma action plan helps you to manage your asthma condition by providing written, step-by-step instructions for treating your condition. Developed with your doctor, the plan gives you a guide to taking daily medicines, dealing with an asthma attack and properly responding in the event of a severe attack. The plan also provides parents with a comprehensive guide they can easily give to others who may be supervising their asthmatic child (such as teachers, coaches and babysitters).
In addition, the asthma action plan contains a list of triggers that may set off an asthma attack. This list, which varies from person to person, can help an individual avoid any problem situations or conditions.
Don’t be afraid to call your doctor
You should frequently discuss your condition and your asthma action plan with your doctor. Don’t be afraid to let your doctor know if your condition is changing ‑- even if it is for the better. It is important that an asthma action plan contain up-to-date information. Your medication and dosages can change along with your condition. It is critical that your doctor has the latest information on your condition to be able to treat you effectively.
Monitor your lung function
It is important to understand that an asthma action plan may need to be changed as your overall asthma condition changes. You should frequently discuss your plan with your doctor to make sure it has the latest medical information. Peak flow numbers will change over time and must be updated to be useful. You should check your peak flow (using a home peak flow meter) at least twice a week ‑- though individuals with severe asthma may need to check up to several times a day. Using a peak flow meter frequently will not only allow you to have the latest baseline information for your asthma action plan; it can also alert you to a sudden drop in lung function that may indicate that your asthma is worsening. This allows for control of asthmatic inflammations before symptoms are ever noticed.
Know which asthma triggers affect you most
If you have asthma, you are more likely to experience symptoms or a full-blown asthma attack when exposed to certain allergens and stimuli, which are called asthma triggers. These triggers affect different people in different ways. Some people may be able to tolerate some triggers better than others. It is important to determine what triggers affect you the most and watch out for them in your day-to-day life. Common asthma triggers include:
- Air pollution
- Pet dander
- Tobacco smoke
- Certain foods
- Feathers in pillows
- Aspirin or ibuprofen
- Cold air
- Temperature changes
- Strong odors (from household chemicals, sprays or paints) and irritants
- Spray-on deodorants
- Menstrual cycles (hormonal changes may trigger asthma)
- Viral respiratory infections (including colds, bronchitis and flu)
- Sinus infections
Control asthma triggers in your home
While it may not be possible to avoid all asthma triggers, it is possible to limit your exposure to the worst ones. Reducing the amount asthma-causing allergens in your home is a great way to reduce the severity of your asthma. Some techniques that can help control asthma triggers in your home include:
Keep your home cooled to between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit Provide good ventilation with filters, fans and other devices Maintain humidity between 40 and 50 percent Wear a mask when cleaning the house or performing yard work ‑- or better yet, see if anyone is willing to do the work for you. Add mold inhibitor to paint, especially in damp places like the bathroom Replace carpeting with hard flooring
Watch your weight
There appears to be a link between obesity and asthma that is not yet fully understood. One recent study found that children who are obese at the time of puberty are three times more likely than their slimmer peers to continue to suffer from asthma into their teens. Other studies have found that obese adults are three times more likely to develop asthma than thinner adults. The mechanism behind the asthma-obesity connection remains a mystery, though some research indicates that the two conditions share a gene that might link them together.
Learn the proper way to use an inhaler
It is extremely important that you use an inhaler properly to get the full effects of the medicine it provides. Using an inhaler improperly can prevent enough medicine from reaching the lungs. Improper breathing techniques can also cause much of an inhaler’s medication to remain in your mouth, where it is not effective. To properly use a metered-dose inhaler, use the following steps:
- Carefully read the directions of the inhaler, making sure medication is inserted into the device (if needed).
- Shake the inhaler before each use and always check the mouthpiece for bits of dirt or other foreign objects.
- Hold the inhaler one to two inches from your open mouth while tilting your head back slightly.
- Exhale fully to clear the lungs of as much air as possible.
- Press down on the inhaler canister firmly with your index finger while breathing in fully and slowly (for as long as it feels comfortable ‑- at least 5 to 10 seconds). Hold the breath for as long as possible before exhaling.
- Wait 30 to 60 seconds before taking additional doses. Make sure to stay within physician-directed limits for the number of repeated doses allowed.
- Replace the cap on the inhaler and rinse out your mouth with water or brush your teeth.