Asthma should not stop anyone from leading an active, healthy life. The chronic condition requires proper long-term care, active management, and adherence to an asthma action plan. Asthma can be a stressful condition to manage, and stress can even trigger asthma attacks. Asthmatics should strive to reduce stress as much as possible and learn to cope with the challenges and frustrations of living with asthma in a positive way.
Day-to-day living may be more manageable if you can find support from other people who are also living with asthma. Online forums also exist for people to share experiences, opinions, and frustrations. Support is equally important for children and teens with asthma.
An important part of managing asthma is adopting a healthy lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fats and sugars, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, work on managing stress, and, of course, do not smoke.
The Asthma Action Plan
You and your doctor should design your personal asthma action plan. The plan should consist of instructions for medication, a list of asthma triggers, responses to worsening symptoms, and benchmarks to indicate the level of your asthma control. Typical plans also include instructions for dealing with emergencies such as asthma attacks. A plan is only useful if it is followed, and successful asthma management is no exception.
Learning as much as possible about asthma will help you to properly manage the condition. You should know what causes your symptoms, how to prevent them, and how to use your medicines correctly. Educate yourself about controlling symptoms and reducing asthma attacks, and be aware of barriers that may prevent you from doing so. Never hesitate to ask your physician for assistance with any issues that may arise.
Collect data about yourself on a regular basis. Record asthma symptoms and their triggers, and use a peak flow meter to measure and record how well your lungs are working. Information gathered over time can be used to track changes and progress. You will become more informed about how your body responds to the environment, and you will be quicker to spot problems and prevent attacks.
Identifying and avoiding asthma triggers will help you to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle with asthma. The following list discusses common triggers and suggests ways to handle them:
Tobacco smoke - avoid inside and outside of the home
Air pollution - try antihistamine medications and staying indoors
Pollen - try antihistamine medications and staying indoors
Animal dander - keep pets outside, wash them often, find them a new home
Viral infections - see a physician
Heavy exercise - lower the impact of your exercise routine and consult a doctor
Stress - many methods of stress reduction exist, including breathing, meditation, progressive relaxation, and exercise.
Dry or cold air - wear a scarf over your mouth and nose during winter months
Dust mites - keep sheets, blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys clean
Sulfites in dried food and wine - avoid foods with allergens
Combustion particles - minimize exposure to combustion particles and gases, change furnace filters, and do not use a gas stove to heat the home
Deodorants, perfumes, air fresheners, paint, and cleaners - avoid if possible
Video: Asthma Triggers
You should start to feel much better if your home is a trigger-free place. Sometimes, relocation is advised since some areas of the country are more likely to have asthma triggers than other areas.
Schedule regular visits with the physician that helps you manage asthma so that you can assess your level of asthma control. Checkups are usually recommended every 6 to 12 months for mild intermittent or mild persistent asthma that has been well-controlled for at least 3 months. Those with moderate persistent asthma should be checked up every 3 to 6 months, and those with uncontrolled or severe persistent asthma should be checked every 1 to 2 months.
You may have to make adjustments to your asthma action plan if it is not working right for you. Your physician will consult with you to find the best plan that meets your needs.
Additionally, get regular treatment for any conditions that may interfere with your asthma management. Keeping all aspects of asthma under control is the key to living with it successfully.
Indications of Worsening Asthma
Your asthma may be getting worse if:
- Your symptoms start to occur more often and are more intense
- Your symptoms bother you at night, causing you to lose sleep or wake during the night
- Your symptoms require you to limit normal activities and miss school or work
- Your peak flow number is low relative to your personal best or it is wildly inconsistent
- Asthma medicines do not work well
- You are using your quick-relief inhaler more often (i.e., every day is too often)
- You have an attack that requires an emergency room visit
Children and Teens
Children aged 10 or older should be involved in developing and following their asthma action plan. However, you will need to be sure that the plan is followed in order for it to work. It is imperative to bring your child to doctor's appointments or visits with allergy and lung specialists. A physician will be the key to making sure you and your child understand the asthma action plan
You should talk to your child about asthma and how to control it. Protect your child from secondhand smoke in your home and in public places, and prevent your child from coming into contact with common asthma triggers such as pollen, dust mites, cockroaches, or pet dander.
Make sure your child receives his or her asthma medication, and teach your child how to use medical devices properly such as peak flow meters by actively participating in asthma management.
Teens may require some extra attention, as they will see the disease as a barrier to their independence. Support and encouragement will help teens follow their asthma action plans. It is important to help teens remember that asthma will not ruin their lives. Consider allowing them to visit physicians alone to encourage them to manage care independently.
It is important for your child or teen to be active, participating in everyday kid activities and play.
A plan that allows teens to participate in sports and exercise is ideal. Additional support may be found by introducing your child to other teens or children who have asthma.
Video: Kids and Asthma