Living With Asthma

Living with asthma is certainly manageable -- the key is to learn how to take care of yourself and avoid the things that make your asthma symptoms worse. Suggestions for living with asthma include knowing your asthma triggers, recognizing the signs of an asthma attack, and understanding when your asthma may be getting worse.

If you have asthma, it's important to learn how to take care of yourself. Work with your doctor to make an action plan that satisfies both of you. Here are some things you can do to help yourself while living with asthma:
  • Tell your doctor about all other medications you are taking, in case one of them affects your asthma.
  • Follow your asthma action plan, and have regular checkups.
  • Learn to use your medication correctly. Ask your doctor to teach you how to use your inhaler. This is very important. If inhalers are not used correctly, less medication gets into the airways.
  • Let your doctor know right away if you are having problems taking your asthma medicine.
You need to know what things worsen your asthma symptoms. Then do what you can to avoid or limit contact with these things. Consider the following tips for avoiding asthma triggers:
  • If animal dander is a problem for you, keep your pet out of the house and/or at least out of your bedroom, and wash your pet often. In severe cases of asthma, you may need to find it a new home.
  • Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home.
  • If pollen is a problem for you, stay indoors with the air conditioner on when the pollen count is high.
  • To control dust mites, wash your sheets, blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys once a week in hot water. You can get special dust-proof covers for your mattresses and pillows.
  • To prevent colds and flu, wash your hands often and get a flu shot every year. Children with asthma should get flu shots, too.
  • If cold air bothers you, wear a scarf over your mouth and nose in the winter.
  • If you get asthma when you exercise or while engaging in routine physical activities, like climbing stairs, work with your doctor to find ways to be active without experiencing asthma symptoms. Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • If you are allergic to sulfites, avoid foods (like dried fruit) or beverages (like wine) that contain them.
Be alert for warning signs of an asthma attack. Actions you can take to improve your ability to recognize the signs of an attack include:
  • Watching for symptoms (coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing), and taking your medication as directed by your doctor
  • Using your peak flow meter as directed to monitor your asthma.
Consider adopting a healthy lifestyle. While a healthy lifestyle may not keep you from having problems with allergies and asthma, being healthier in general can't hurt! Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fats and sugars, get enough rest, exercise regularly, try to find ways to manage stress in your life, and don't smoke.
If your asthma is not under control, there will be signs that you should not ignore. The following are some signs that your asthma is getting worse:
  • Your asthma symptoms occur more often.
  • Your asthma symptoms are worse than they used to be.
  • Your asthma symptoms are bothering you a lot at night and making you lose sleep.
  • You are missing school or work because of your asthma.
  • Your peak flow number is low or varies a lot from morning to evening.
  • Your asthma medications do not seem to be working very well anymore.
  • You have to use your short-acting "quick-relief" or "rescue" inhaler more often. (Using quick-relief medicine every day, or using more than one inhaler a month, is too much.)
  • You have to go to the emergency room or doctor because of an asthma attack.
  • You end up in the hospital because of your asthma.
If your asthma seems to be getting worse, see your doctor. You may need to change your medication or do other things to get your asthma under control.
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