Controlling Asthma

Some simple steps that you can take to help your loved one control his or her asthma.

There are three steps to take to help your loved one gain control of his or her asthma:

  1. Learn what things trigger asthma symptoms and control them.
  2. Respond quickly to warning signs of an asthma episode.
  3. Make a treatment plan and follow it.

What follows will help you and your loved one talk about these issues with a doctor.

1. Learn What Things Trigger Asthma Symptoms and Control Them

Most asthma symptoms start when airways are bothered by something. These things are called triggers. Your loved one’s symptoms will be reduced if he or she can control these triggers.

Create a worksheet and check the things that trigger your loved one’s asthma symptoms:

  • Dogs, cats, or other animals
  • Colds or flu
  • Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds
  • Dust or mold
  • Strong odors from perfumes, paints, sprays, or other items
  • Smoke from cigarettes or from burning wood, paper, or other items
  • Weather changes or very cold air
  • Air pollution
  • Crying, laughing, or yelling
  • Exercising, what type of exercise?
  • Aspirin or other medicine
  • Other

Peak flow meters, which measure breathing, can help you find out what your loved one’s triggers are. The peak flow meter is simple and small, and can be used at home or at work. A peak flow meter can also warn your loved one when an asthma episode is coming—even before he or she feels symptoms—so your loved one can take his or her medication and avoid the episode. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about this.

Once you have identified the asthma triggers, take the following actions.

  • Discuss these triggers with a doctor.
  • Ask the doctor how to control your loved one’s triggers.
  • Make sure your loved one has medicines available when triggers cannot be avoided.
  • Help your loved one write a plan of action for staying away from or controlling asthma triggers:

2: Respond Quickly to Warning Signs

Most asthma attacks start slowly, and your loved one should be able to stop these episodes by catching them early and taking his or her medication. In order to counteract asthma attacks as early as possible, make sure you both recognize the warning signs and know what to do when these signs occur.

Create a worksheet and check the warning signs that your loved one has before an asthma episode.

  • Drop in peak flow rate
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in chest
  • Wheezing
  • Faster breathing
  • Itchy or sore throat
  • Other

Talk with the doctor about these warning signs.

Along with the doctor, plan what you and your loved one should do when warning signs occur, and follow the plan. This often means taking medicine and resting. By knowing what to do when he or she notices early warning signs, your loved one will feel more in control. Also ask about other times when your loved one should take his or her medicine. This may be the first sign of a cold or flu, before he or she exercises, or before he or she comes into contact with an asthma trigger.

3: Make a Treatment Plan and Follow It

Talk with the doctor about your loved one’s asthma medicines. Some medicines need to be taken daily to prevent asthma symptoms. Others can relieve symptoms once an episode begins.

Ask the doctor the following questions, and record the answers for each medication that your loved one uses.

  • Name of medicine
  • When and how much your loved one should take
  • How long to take it
  • What does the medicine do
  • When will your loved one feel it working
  • What to do if your loved one forgets to take it
  • Side effects and what to do about them
  • When to call the doctor

If your loved doesn’t want to take a particular medication, make sure the doctor understands this. Also, inform the doctor if your loved one has difficulty taking a medicine. The doctor can often find a different medicine that will be easier for your loved one to use.

Ask the doctor to show your loved one how to use an inhaler, and make sure he or she uses it the right way. If your loved one has trouble using an inhaler, ask about a spacer or holding chamber.

Make sure your loved one always carries an inhaler that contains medicine to open airways. He or she should always have it within reach.

While none of these steps will cure your loved one’s asthma, they will help him or her to control it—and controlling asthma and asthma symptoms can help improve the quality of both of your lives.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adapted from a series of articles published by the National Asthma Education Program of the Public Health Service—National Institutes of Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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