Today, millions of people suffer from the inflammatory disease, which is characterized by wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest region, and shortness of breath.
Asthma has no known cure. For asthmatic patients across the globe, the only way to find relief from its symptoms is to create an asthma management plan. By staying on top of their medication and symptoms, plus maintaining an open dialog with their doctors, many patients can minimize their suffering and enjoy productive, symptom-free daily lives.
Develop an Asthma Action Plan
The key to successful asthma management is to have an asthma action plan. This plan is a healthcare regimen that the patient develops with his or her doctor. It includes regular checkups, monitoring the patient’s symptoms, and planning a treatment course for the patient in the event his or her symptoms worsen. Parents should work with their children’s doctors to develop their asthma action plans, and children should be involved with the plan in an age-appropriate way.
Learn to Take Medications Correctly
It is crucial for all asthma patients to learn how to take their medication correctly. There are two types of asthma medications: bronchodilators and anti-inflammatories.
Bronchodilators relax the patient’s air tubes, giving them relief during an asthma attack. They also open up the lung tissue, allowing mucus to be cleared more easily.
Anti-inflammatories prevent asthma attacks by keeping the air tubes open and reducing the amount of mucus present in the patient’s respiratory system.
Some medications are taken daily over the long term to lessen the frequency and severity of symptoms. Others are rescue treatments that control asthma once it has flared up.
There are also choices between inhaled and oral medications—both come with pros and cons. Because oral medications travel through the blood, they affect the whole body. While using oral medications is the most powerful way to relieve symptoms, these drugs can also produce undesirable side effects. When drugs are inhaled, their effect is not as strong. However, because very little medication reaches the bloodstream, side effects are minimal. Thus, inhalers are usually recommended for long-term use.2
Asthma patients can make it easier to manage their condition by avoiding their unique and common asthma triggers. Along with regular checkups and symptom monitoring, knowledge of personal asthma triggers is part of a successful asthma action plan.
Common asthma triggers include the following:
- Allergens, such as pet dander or ragweed
- Tobacco smoke
- Air pollution
- Exposure to cold, dry air
- Certain medications
- Bacterial and viral infections
- Acid reflux
Daily symptom tracking is part of every asthma action plan. If a patient understands how his or her body reacts to medications and environmental triggers, they can have well-informed discussions with their doctor. This dialog enables physician and patient to develop the most beneficial asthma management plan.
Many patients opt to use a chart to track their asthma symptoms. If the patient divides their symptoms into categories of severity, it allows them to develop ways to avoid triggering symptoms.
Protect Your Health
Getting sick is never good. But for asthmatics, a common cold can be anything but common. That’s why asthma patients should be even more vigilant in avoiding situations that can result in sickness.
Here are a few helpful hints from the American Lung Association3:
- Wash your hands often
- Use hand sanitizer
- Avoid crowds during the cold and flu season
- Ask extended family members and friends to be considerate of your asthma and the need to protect yourself from infection and keep visits to when they are healthy.
- Good oral hygiene can protect you from the germs in your mouth leading to infections. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and see your dentist at least every 6 months.
Living with Asthma
Patients who seek medical advice and pay attention to their symptoms can develop an asthma management plan that makes it easier for them to live with the disease. Asthmatics should also pay attention to everyday guidelines for healthy living to eat nutritious foods, exercise, and manage stress. By doing so, they may not only alleviate asthma symptoms, but they may improve overall health, control their weight, and increase their strength and energy levels.
2“Asthma and Inhaled Steroids,” Partners® Healthcare, http://www.asthma.partners.org/NewFiles/InhaledSteroids.html.
3“Protecting Your Lungs,” American Lung Association, http://www.lung.org/your-lungs/protecting-your-lungs/.