Asthma Prevention Print 7 Things Everyone With Asthma Needs to Know By Pat Bass, MD Updated January 10, 2018 Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician More in Asthma Prevention Symptoms Diagnosis Treatment Triggers Living With Asthma in Children Asthma is a complicated disease that requires you to understand what triggers your symptoms so you can avoid the things that may exacerbate it. Moreover, you must monitor your disease and be able to follow a detailed action plan to keep asthma symptoms at bay. So, here are seven important tasks to do that will help you achieve good control of your asthma: 1 Understand Asthma Pathophysiology yodiyim/iStock Many patients do not understand the pathophysiology of asthma or why their doctors prescribe different medications as part of their treatment. When your asthma worsens, three primary changes take place in your lungs that make your airways smaller: Increased mucus production—Mucus production leads to irritation and inflammation. It clogs and narrows your airways, leading to the production of more symptoms.Inflammation and swelling—Asthma triggers lead to swelling of the airways in response to whatever is causing your asthma attack.Muscle tightening—Smooth muscles tighten in response to an asthma attack and narrow the airways, making it harder to breathe. Understanding what is going on in the lungs helps you understand why your doctor prescribes certain medications and why you need to do certain things to get control of your asthma. 2 Know Your Medication If you have mild-intermittent asthma, you may only need a rescue inhaler. But, patients with more severe asthma will likely have an inhaled steroid. Also, using a spacer will help alleviate some of the problems you may experience due to poor technique. And another important factor for understanding your medication is knowing the potential side effects of your medications. 3 Monitor Your Asthma In order to achieve good control of your asthma, it is essential that you monitor how you are doing. Tracking and recording asthma symptoms or peak flows is one way to achieve this. “That which cannot be measured cannot be changed” is an adage often discussed in business and other complex processes. Your asthma is no different. Without monitoring your asthma symptoms, you cannot make the changes need to achieve good control. 4 Understand Asthma Control Nearly three of four asthmatics have nighttime awakenings at least weekly and two of three may have nighttime symptoms three or more times per week. Asthmatics often under-acknowledge these symptoms as a sign of poor asthma control. Similarly, many patients who describe their asthma as “mild” also report symptoms like wheezing, chest tightness, cough, and shortness of breath nightly. A simple way to know if your asthma is inadequately controlled is the Baylor Rule of Twos. If you use your relief inhaler more than two times per week, wake up with asthma symptoms more than two times per month, or refill your short acting inhaler more than two times per year, your asthma is poorly controlled. 5 Set an Action Plan Your asthma action plan or asthma management plan is a written plan that helps you care for your asthma. Developed by your doctor with your input, your asthma action plan will help you gain control of your condition. The plan tells you the dose and frequency of your controller medication, when to use your rescue medicine based on your monitoring, and 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. 6 Choose Pets Wisely Allowing your pet to sleep with you can lead to poorly controlled asthma. Despite this, it is a common reason that asthma patients fail to get their asthma under good control. You spend a huge number of hours in your bedroom every year and pets transport allergens, such as dust, pollen, and molds, around on their bodies and on to your bed and into your bedroom. The more time a pet spends in your bedroom or in your bed, the larger allergen exposure you will experience. Another common pet mistake is believing that you can purchase a hypoallergenic pet. (Some consider hypoallergenic pets to just be a myth.) All pets shed proteins from skin flakes, urine, feces, and saliva known as dander. And dander from your pet triggers the pathophysiology of asthma. If a pet is a must, consider one that doesn't have fur, like a turtle. 7 Take Medications Regularly In order for you to get the most benefit from your asthma medications, you need to take them regularly. While this would seem self-evident, many asthma patients do not regularly take their medications. Some patients will begin to feel better, develop less symptoms or functional impairment, and then fail to continue their controller medications regularly. Asthma never really goes away, despite your improved symptoms. Wheezing, chest tightness, cough, and shortness of breath will not be far behind if you stop taking your meds. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Sign up for our Health Tip of the Day newsletter, and receive daily tips that will help you live your healthiest life. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Baylor Health System. Rules of Two. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Sutherland ER. Nocturnal asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 Dec;116(6):1179–86.