Living With Asthma

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Living with asthma can be challenging, but if you pay attention to the details of successful asthma management, you or your child can lead an active, healthy life. It's all about what you need to know and do to get better control of your asthma. Many patients assume this to be a daunting task. But making some changes and making them part of your daily life is an effective way to learn better asthma management.

Emotional

Whether it is you or your child who has asthma, you may feel anger, frustration, or sadness that asthma gets in the way of doing what you want to do in life. This is natural, and you can expect to have these emotions from time to time. They can affect your family and friends as well.

Dealing with any health issue, including asthma, may be stressful at times. Unfortunately, stress can be a trigger for asthma attacks. Learn how to cope with the challenges and frustrations of living with asthma in as positive a way as possible. Ways to reduce stress include breathing exercises, meditation, and other tactics.

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.

Focusing on what you (or your child) can do rather than what you can't do or what you must avoid will help you keep a positive attitude. You might find that accomplishing small goals or checking off a to-do list gives you a sense of control and relieves feelings of helplessness.

Physical

The key to living with asthma successfully is to keep it under control. Limit contact with asthma triggers in your environment, monitor your condition with a peak flow meter, and follow your treatment plan strictly.

Reducing Triggers

Changing your environment to eliminate your asthma triggers can be hard, but your efforts will be worth it. You should start to feel much better when you can keep your home as trigger-free as possible. A first step is to stop smoking and protect yourself or your child from secondhand smoke in your home and in public places. Take action to prevent you or your child from coming into contact with common asthma triggers such as pollen, dust mites, cockroaches, or pet dander.

Exercise

It is possible to be active and stay healthy when you're living with asthma. In fact, many medal-winning Olympic athletes have asthma. Exercise strengthens your respiratory muscles, helps maintain weight, decreases the risk of heart disease, and has psychological benefits. Exercises that are less likely to trigger asthma symptoms include swimming, walking, hiking, and leisurely biking. Sports that have short bursts of activity are also less likely to set off symptoms. Examples include baseball, football, and sprinting.

You may have to pace yourself at times or make some adjustments here or there, such as avoiding outdoor sports in the early morning, when pollen counts are at their highest (assuming pollen is one of your triggers).

The National Institutes of Health notes that heart-healthy eating may help you with asthma control. Enjoy more fruits and vegetables in your diet and get enough vitamin D.

Social

You might also draw inspiration from knowing that many famous people have learned how to live with asthma and still thrive in their lives. There is no reason why you cannot live just as successfully with asthma.

Talking with other people who are also living with asthma can be helpful. You can probably find a local asthma support group if you live in a populated area, or use an online option.

For one-on-one support, consider finding an asthma health coach. A health coach can guide you towards establishing good goals, improving your mindset, and focusing on you as a whole, not just on your condition.

If your child has asthma, team up with your child's other caregivers, teachers, or coaches to help manage your child's condition. Make sure they have copies of your child's asthma action plan.

Practical

Asthma presents a number of challenges that need to be overcome.

Monitor Your Asthma

Simply checking and recording peak flows once per day could make a big difference in your asthma control. A low number can indicate you may be headed toward an asthma attack. It is also good to keep a diary so you can see what might be leading to poor control.

Medication Management

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.

Be Prepared for Asthma Emergencies

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.

Even people who take their asthma medicine exactly as prescribed and who work to avoid triggers can have the occasional asthma attack. It's essential to have an asthma action plan in place for those times. This will include symptoms to look for, actions to take, danger signs, avoiding triggers, medication instructions, and when to call your doctor or go to the emergency room.

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Article Sources

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Asthma.