How to control asthma2017-06-21T22:50:43+00:00

How to control asthma

Asthma is a long term illness of the lungs that causes the airways to become inflamed and produce lots of mucus. Viral infections, cold air, allergens, exercise, and smoke make the airways “twitchy”; they close easily causing asthma attacks with coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath (see what is asthma). Between attacks the airways are inflamed (see what is an allergy).

Asthma is a long-term disease that has no cure. But asthma can be completely controlled so that;

  • You have no chronic and troublesome symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath
  • You are not using quick-relief medicines regularly
  • You have good lung function
  • You can do all normal activities and sleep through the night
  • You have NO asthma attacks with emergency room visits or hospital stays

To control asthma, partner with your doctor to manage your / your child’s asthma. Children aged 10 or older—and younger children who are able—should take an active role in their asthma care.

You can record your asthma symptoms in a diary to see how well your treatments are controlling your asthma.
Asthma is well controlled if:

  • You have symptoms no more than 2 days a week, and these symptoms don’t wake you from sleep more than 1 or 2 nights a month
  • You can do all your normal activities
  • You take quick-relief medicines no more than 2 days a week
  • You have no more than one asthma attack a year that requires you to take corticosteroids by mouth
  • Your peak flow doesn’t drop below 80 percent of your personal best number

Medications are one of the most important ways to prevent or treat asthma symptoms. There are two types of asthma medications: controller medications and quick relief (rescue/reliever) medications. Although many people think their controller medication is the most important (because they make them feel better when they are having an attack), actually the controller medications are even more important. This is because if you use your controller medication every day with the technique your doctor shows you, you should not even have any attacks at all!

Bring all your pumps and medicines with you to your every visit so your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can explain to you what type of medicine it is, and check whether your technique in using it is good enough.

Controller Medications

Controller medications work slowly over weeks to months to reduce the airway swelling and inflammation and help prevent asthma symptoms from occurring in the first place.

  • Prevent asthma symptoms from occurring and reduce and/or prevent:
    • Inflammation and scarring in the airways
    • Tightening of the muscle bands around the airways (bronchospasm)
  • Will not provide quick relief of asthma symptoms
  • Do not show immediate results, but work slowly over time
  • Should be taken daily, even when you are not having symptoms

Quick-Relief (Rescue or Reliever) Medications

Rescue/reliever medications are fast-acting medications used to relieve asthma symptoms within five to 20 minutes. They should be used whenever you have asthma symptoms. These types of medicines are usually inhaled directly into the lungs through an inhaler or a nebulizer.

Rescue/reliever medications:

  • Relieve asthma symptoms once they have started
  • Are fast-acting (start working in five to 20 minutes)
  • Do not control or prevent inflammation in the airways
  • Relax the tightened muscle bands around the airways (bronchospasm)
  • Should only be needed occasionally. Talk to your doctor if you find you are using quick-relief medications more than twice a week to control your breathing

An action plan tells you exactly how to monitor your asthma control and what you should do if your asthma is

  1. In the green … Well controlled: Use your normal medication
  2. Orange … not controlled: Use relievers and see your doctor
  3. Red … Red alert: Use relievers and see a doctor immediately

Signs That Your Asthma Is Getting Worse (see action plan)

Your asthma might be getting worse if:

  • Your symptoms start to occur more often, are more severe, or bother you at night and cause you to lose sleep
  • You’re limiting your normal activities and missing school or work because of your asthma.
  • Your peak flow (see peak flow tests) is low compared to your personal best or varies a lot from day to day
  • Your asthma medicines don’t seem to work well anymore
  • You have to use your quick-relief inhaler more often. If you’re using quick-relief medicine 3 or more days a week, your asthma isn’t well controlled
  • You have to go to the emergency room or doctor because of an asthma attack

If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. He or she might need to change your medicines or take other steps to control your asthma.

Remember

Take your medicines as directed by your doctor, and you:

  • May have more days without asthma symptoms
  • Won’t use quick-relief medications as often
  • Will have fewer symptoms at night
  • Will breathe better
  • May avoid permanent lung function changes/damage.

Download our “How to control asthma” leaflet for free

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