7 Things Everyone With Asthma Needs to Know

Asthma is a complicated condition with a number of causes. If you understand what triggers your symptoms, you can avoid the things that may make it worse. Also, you can monitor your condition and follow a detailed action plan to keep asthma symptoms at bay.

This article reviews seven important steps you can take to help gain good control of your asthma.

Know What Asthma Does in Your Lungs

Lungs
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Knowing what happens in your lungs during an asthma attack can help you understand why your healthcare provider prescribes certain medications and recommends certain steps to help you prevent attacks.

When your asthma worsens, three changes occur in the bronchi and bronchioles (airways) that disrupt the flow of air to the lungs and make it hard to breathe.

These changes are:

  • Inflammation: Your airways become inflamed and swollen in response to a trigger, like pollen, dust mites, a certain food, or even exercise.
  • Increased mucus production: As a result of inflammation and irritation, some cells in the airways produce extra mucus that clogs the already narrowed airways.
  • Muscle tightening: Also called bronchoconstriction, this is the tightening of the smooth muscles of the airways. This also makes the airways narrower and makes it harder for air to move in and out of the lungs.

Know Your Medication

If you have mild-intermittent asthma, you may only need a rescue inhaler. These types of inhalers serve as fast-acting treatments for acute symptoms. But people with more severe asthma will likely have an inhaled steroid. These inhalers provide powerful anti-inflammatory treatment for asthma control.

Some people have trouble using an inhaler properly and don't get the medicine where it needs to go. A spacer (a holding chamber between your inhaler and mouth) can help reduce these problems.

Besides knowing the type of inhaler to use and the proper technique, it's also vital to understand the potential side effects of your medications, such as hoarseness, sore throat. or dizziness.

Talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you manage uncomfortable side effects or make changes in your medication if necessary.

Monitor Your Asthma

To achieve good control of your asthma, you need to monitor how you're doing. Tracking and recording asthma symptoms or peak flows (how quickly air is blown out of your lungs) is one way to achieve this.

You can share this information with your healthcare provider to fine-tune your treatment.

Understand Asthma Control

Those with asthma often ignore or minimize symptoms. Many patients who describe their asthma as “mild” also report symptoms like wheezing, chest tightness, cough, and shortness of breath nightly.

Nearly three of four people with asthma wake in the middle of the night at least once per week. And 40% of asthma patients have nighttime symptoms every night.

Baylor Rules of Two

The Baylor Rules of Two is a simple way to know if your asthma is inadequately controlled.

Your asthma is poorly controlled if you:

  • Use your relief inhaler more than two times per week
  • Wake up with asthma symptoms more than two times per month
  • Refill your short-acting inhaler more than two times per year

Set an Action Plan

Your asthma action plan or asthma management plan is a written plan that helps you care for your asthma. Your healthcare provider develops the plan with your input to help you gain control of your condition.

The asthma action plan tells you:

  • The dose and frequency of your controller medication
  • When to use your rescue medicine based on your monitoring
  • When you need to seek care

Additionally, the plan will help you avoid triggers and know what to do if you're in a situation where triggers are unavoidable.

Choose Pets Wisely

Allowing your pet to sleep with you can lead to poorly controlled asthma. It's a common reason asthma patients fail to get their asthma under good control.

Every year, you spend many hours in your bedroom. Pets transport allergens like dust, pollen, and molds around on their bodies, your bed, and your bedroom. The more time a pet spends in your bedroom or bed, the more allergens you'll be exposed to.

Another common pet mistake is believing you can get a hypoallergenic pet. However, all pets shed dander (proteins from skin flakes, urine, feces, and saliva). And dander from your pet triggers the process of asthma.

Take Medications Regularly

To get the most benefit from your asthma medications, you must take them regularly. While this seems obvious, many people don't consistently take their medications.

Sometimes, people begin to feel better and have fewer symptoms, then stop using their controller medications regularly. Asthma never really goes away, despite your improved symptoms. Wheezing, chest tightness, cough, and shortness of breath won't be far behind if you stop taking your meds.

Summary

Asthma might be complicated, but that doesn't mean it has to be hard to manage. Part of that comes from monitoring and understanding your symptoms, triggers, and medications. From there, an asthma action plan can make your next steps clear and get you on the path to good asthma control.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Lung Association. Measuring your peak flow rate.

  3. Tan NC, Nadkarni NV, Lye WK, Sankari U, Nguyen van H. Ten-year longitudinal study of factors influencing nocturnal asthma symptoms among Asian patients in primary care. NPJ Prim Care Resp Med. 2015;25(1):1-6. doi:10.1038/npjpcrm.2015.64

  4. Millard M, Hart M, Barnes S. Validation of Rules of TwoTM as a paradigm for assessing asthma controlProc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2014;27(2):79-82. doi:10.1080/08998280.2014.11929063

  5. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma action plan.

  6. Lockey RF. The myth of hypoallergenic dogs (and cats). J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012;130(4):910-1. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.08.019

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