Tips for Controlling Your Asthma
Adapted from the National Institutes of Health by Editorial Staff and Contributors
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. But you do not have to put up with 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 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
Take the Right Medications at the Right Time
There are two main kinds of asthma control medicines: long-term control medicines and short-term (quick-relief) medicines.
Long-term Control Medicines
Long-term control medicines prevent symptoms and control asthma. It often takes a few weeks before you feel the full effects of this medicine. Ask your doctor about taking daily long-term control medicines if you:
If you need long-term control medicine, you will need to take your medicine each day. Post reminders to yourself to take your medicine on time.
For almost everyone with persistent asthma, a long-term control regimen should include a form of inhaled cortisone (“steroid”). Ask your doctor if you are not sure whether a steroid is part of your treatment.
Short-term or “Quick-Relief” Medicines
Inhaled quick-relief medicine quickly relaxes and opens your airways and relieves asthma symptoms. But it only helps for about four hours. Take quick-relief medicine when you first have symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. This can keep you from having an 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 medicine needs to be changed or increased.
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.
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:
American Lung Association
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Asthma Society of Canada
Asthma. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma/. Updated June 15, 2012. Accessed July 26, 2012..
Asthma exacerbation in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 2, 2011. Accessed August 1, 2012.
1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: McLean S, Chandler D, Nurmatov U, Liu J, Pagliari C, Car J, Sheikh A. Telehealthcare for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(10):CD007717.
Last reviewed July 2012 by Brian Randall, MD