Asthma Treatment

Asthma is a complicated medical problem. It can be overwhelming, particularly if you're newly diagnosed. Asthma treatment often involves multiple medications, and each needs to be taken at the appropriate time. On top of that, the use of inhalers requires some manual dexterity that makes getting the needed medication to your lungs a little more difficult.

Unlike pneumonia or an ear infection, there is no medication that will cure your asthma. Rather, asthma is managed and symptoms can be kept in check. The good news is that, with some education and time, you can do just that.

Take a look at how an inhaler helps decrease inflammation in the airways.

Top 5 Things to Know About Asthma Treatment

1. You need an asthma action plan. An asthma action plan is like a roadmap to good asthma control. It helps you do several things including:

  • Avoid triggers
  • Recognize early warning signs of an asthma attack
  • Outline both your maintenance and acute symptom treatment
  • Manage asthma symptoms based on severity
  • Know when it’s time to head to the ER

Asthma action plans are generally divided into three zones: green, yellow, and red. Each zone relates to a different level of asthma control—and what to do when you find yourself in those states.

In the green zone, your asthma is under control and you're feeling healthy. You are generally symptom free or only occassionaly need symptomatic treatment.

If your symptoms start to worsen, you may drop into the yellow zone where your asthma action plan will provide specific steps, such as using your quick-relief inhaler, which will hopefully help you move quickly back to your green zone.

If you fail to identify or realize that you've entered the yellow zone, or the treatment doesn't get you back into the green zone, you may end up in the red zone. Here you will be asked to take some additional steps. However, if your symptoms do not quickly improve, you will be instructed to seek medical help right away. Any delay at this point may result in a severe asthma attack and other serious complications.

An asthma action plan is also a communication tool between you and your doctor (or, if it's your child who has asthma, your child's physician, you, and any other caregivers).

2. It's important to know your asthma triggers. If you can avoid your asthma triggers, you might not ever develop much in the way of asthma symptoms. Prevention and avoidance are the keys to good asthma control.

3. Developing a monitoring plan is key. An important part of identifying and understanding your asthma triggers is development of an asthma monitoring plan. Unless you measure or track your asthma symptoms, it is unlikely that you will be able to improve them. It is also true that unless you monitor when your asthma symptoms occur, you may not recognize that your symptoms occur in certain places or with exposure to certain things.

You can monitor your asthma using two different methods:

Research demonstrates that monitoring asthma regularly is associated with benefits including:

  • Decreased use of controller medications
  • Decreased asthma exacerbations
  • Decreased emergency room visits

4. Understanding what defines good asthma control is essential. If you are having to use your rescue inhaler more than twice per week, are having symptoms more than two days per week, or are waking up at night more than twice per month due to your asthma symptoms, your asthma is poorly controlled and your asthma action plan needs adjustment. Speak with your doctor if any of these apply to you.

5. Controller medicines are not rescue medicines, and vice versa.

There are two types of asthma medications:

Ask Your Doctor These 3 Questions

Have you ever left your doctor's office feeling confused, overwhelmed, or not sure exactly what you need to be doing to get your asthma under control?

Do all of the different steps of your action plan frustrate you?

Have you ever taken your asthma medications incorrectly because you did not understand how to use them?

The Partnership for Clear Health Communication recommends that you ask and get answers to the following three questions from your healthcare provider. While this is especially important if you've been recently diagnosed with asthma, anyone with with the condition (or any other, for that matter) can benefit from this if they are feeling unclear about how to best manage their treatment:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

Living With Asthma

Asthma presents a number of challenges that need to be overcome. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Learn how to use your medications correctly. Find out all you can about your asthma medicine, including how and when to take it, potential side effects, and how it controls your asthma. If you use a metered dose inhaler, learn how to use it properly.
  • Develop a strategy to take your medication regularly. It can be easy to forget to take your medicine. Consider keeping a diary of your medication use for a week. Did you miss a dose? Was something happening at that time that made taking your medication difficult or not top-of-mind? Setting a reminder on your cell phone or making taking your medication part of another routine (like washing your face and brushing your teeth) can help. But if not, you may need to talk with your doctor about adjusting your plan.
  • Keep your rescue inhaler handy. Not having your rescue inhaler immediately available can be dangerous. Because you have no idea when you might need it, consider keeping a spare in your backpack, desk, or any place that you spend a lot of time (avoid storing yours in extreme heat, however).
  • Put an ICE contact in your cell phone. An ICE or “in case of emergency” contact is a person that knows about your health conditions and can provide doctors or first responders information when you are unable to. First responders are trained to look for these contacts is people cell phones when they are evaluating patients.
  • Take note of your emotional state. People with asthma may be more likely to develop anxiety or depression. If you begin to feel down or depressed, talk with your doctor. Help is available.
  • If you smoke, quit. Nearly one in four people with asthma smoke. This makes it very difficult to get your asthma under control. Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do in this regard.

A Word From Verywell

It's no doubt that having asthma makes life more difficult. But with good asthma treatment, there is no reason you cannot do almost anything you want day to day. You need to educate yourself about your asthma treatment and begin developing your treatment team. Then lean on them to evolve your treatment plan so that it works best for your life and your symptoms.

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Article Sources
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consumer Information. Asthma.
  • Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma.
  • Kavuru MS, Widemann HP. Asthma. In Chest Medicine: Essentials Of Pulmonary And Critical Care Medicine. Editors: Ronald B. George, Richard W. Light, Richard A. Matthay, Michael A. Matthay. May 2005, 5th edition.