A person with severe asthma may experience frequent asthma flares. To help reduce flares, a person can stay on top of their medication, follow an asthma action plan, and make certain lifestyle choices.

Severe asthma is a lifelong lung condition that does not respond to typical asthma medications and may be more difficult to manage and treat.

A person with severe asthma may experience shortness of breath and a tightening in the chest when doing any physical activity, such as walking up or down the stairs. This can lead to frequent asthma flares and the need to use quick-relief medication more than twice a week, alongside their long-term medication.

A person with severe asthma may frequently wake up during the night due to their asthma symptoms and will typically have to receive treatment in a hospital for their asthma once or twice a year.

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A doctor will work with a person with severe asthma to develop a personal treatment plan. It is important a person follows their treatment plan to help reduce flares of severe asthma.

A treatment plan for severe asthma may include:

  • Medications: A doctor may need to prescribe stronger medications to help keep severe asthma under control. Some of these medications can include oral corticosteroids, macrolide antibiotics, and biologics. These medications may typically be for short-term use due to potential side effects. However, a person with severe asthma may need them longer term and may decide that the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • Bronchial thermoplasty (BT): This is a procedure that uses radio frequency waves to gently heat up the muscle tissue in the airways. It can reduce the amount of restriction in the airways and the frequency of severe asthma flares.
  • Lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet, exercising safely, and avoiding substances in the environment that are triggers may help reduce severe asthma flares.

Research suggests that not doing any exercise can worsen severe asthma symptoms. Research also suggests that exercise can reduce inflammation in the airways, which can lead to severe asthma.

Studies show that regular exercise can improve severe asthma symptoms and reduce flares. Exercise can also have a positive effect on the overall health of a person with severe asthma.

Before exercising, a person with severe asthma may wish to take the following precautions:

  • consulting a doctor to find out which types of exercise to avoid
  • taking medications before and after exercising
  • making sure a person has all of the necessary medications with them
  • starting with a gentle warmup to ease the body into the activity
  • exercising with another person or in a group setting
  • avoiding exercising outdoors when air pollution levels are high
  • covering the nose and mouth when exercising outdoors in the cold weather
  • ending each exercise session with a proper cooldown

Research suggests that viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, flu, or COVID-19, are the most common cause of severe asthma flares.

If a person has severe asthma, it is best to try to avoid getting sick by taking precautions, such as:

  • avoiding contact with people who have a viral infection
  • washing hands frequently
  • avoiding touching the mouth, nose, and eyes
  • keeping surfaces at home clean and free of bacteria
  • staying up to date with vaccinations
  • avoiding sharing personal items such as lipstick or utensils

An asthma trigger is something that the body reacts to and leads to an asthma flare. There are many different types of severe asthma triggers, which will vary from person to person.

A person with severe asthma should get to know and try to avoid their asthma triggers as much as possible. Some of the most common triggers of severe asthma can include:

  • viral infections such as the common cold or flu
  • air pollution
  • tobacco smoke
  • dust mites
  • pests such as cockroaches
  • allergens such as pollen or pets
  • mold
  • cleaning products
  • cold air
  • stress and anxiety

Read on to learn more about common asthma triggers.

Stress and anxiety can be a trigger of severe asthma and may lead to an asthma flare. A person with severe asthma should try to avoid stress as much as possible. A person can help relieve stress by taking deep breaths, practicing mindful breathing, and taking breaks throughout the day.

Read on to learn more about how to manage and avoid stress.

There are several ways a person with severe asthma can manage an asthma flare. Some of these include:

  • following an asthma action plan that a person has put together with a doctor
  • taking prescribed medications daily and using quick-relief medications if necessary
  • avoiding triggers if possible
  • sitting up straight and trying to remain calm
  • calling 911 if symptoms do not improve after using a quick-relief inhaler

Severe asthma is a type of asthma that does not typically respond to traditional asthma medications. It can be more difficult to treat and requires more powerful medications.

A person with severe asthma may experience frequent asthma flares, some of which may require hospitalization.

A person can help reduce the frequency of severe asthma flares by avoiding known triggers, following their asthma action plan, taking all of their medications, exercising safely, and reducing stress.

If a person has a severe asthma flare and symptoms do not improve after taking their quick-relief medications, they should call 911 immediately.