7 Things Everyone With Asthma Needs to Know

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:


Understand Asthma Pathophysiology


A basic understanding of the pathophysiology of worsening asthma—what happens in your lungs during an attack—can go a long way toward helping you monitor and manage the disease. This basic knowledge also will help you to understand why your healthcare provider prescribes certain medications and mitigation measures (i.e., changes you should make in your environment to prevent asthma attacks).

When your asthma worsens, three changes take place in the bronchi and bronchioles (airways) that together impede the flow of air to the lungs and make it hard to breathe:

  • Inflammation: In response to a trigger, whether in your case it's pollen, dust mites, a certain food, or even exercise, your airways will become inflamed and swollen.
  • Increased mucus production: As a result of inflammation and irritation, certain cells in the airways produce extra mucus that clogs the already-narrowed airways.
  • Muscle tightening: Clinically known as bronchoconstriction, this is tightening of the smooth muscles of the airways.

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.


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.

Without monitoring your asthma symptoms, you cannot make the changes need to achieve good control.


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.


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 healthcare provider 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.


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.


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?
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.
  1. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Spacers and valved holding chambers (VHCS) for use with metered dose inhalers (MDIS).

  2. American Lung Association. Measuring your peak flow rate. Updated February 28, 2019.

  3. Asthma.net. Nighttime (nocturnal) asthma. Updated May 2016.

  4. Baylor Martha Foster Lung Care Center. If you have asthma when is quick relief not enough?

  5. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma action plan. Updated September 2015.

  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

Additional Reading