Managing And Controlling Your Asthma
Asthma is defined as a chronic condition, which means that you need to continuously monitor and manage your asthma throughout your lifetime. While there is currently no cure for asthma, with proper treatment and management you can effectively control your asthma and live symptom-free.
Asthma treatment is successful if you learn all you can about your asthma including: symptoms, triggers, medications and ongoing asthma management to achieve control. You and you alone know how you feel and how your asthma is affecting you and you need to be responsible for acting when your asthma is not in good control.
Many people with asthma believe that their asthma is controlled but in fact, surveys have shown that most people accept levels of asthma control that fall far short of the standards described in the Canadian Consensus Asthma Guidelines. In order to control your asthma it is very important that you actually understand what good asthma control means.
How To Tell If Your Asthma Is Well Controlled
Proper asthma control is key to staying healthy with asthma and preventing possibly life-threatening asthma attacks. Everyone with asthma should be able to achieve good asthma control. If you are having trouble staying symptom-free or have any of the signs of poor asthma control listed below, we highly recommend speaking with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
You can take this short quiz to help determine if your asthma is under control.
Signs of Good Asthma Control
- You don’t have any breathing difficulties, cough or wheeze most days
- You sleep through the night without awakening due to asthma symptoms like cough, wheeze, or chest tightness
- You can exercise without having any asthma symptoms
- You don’t miss any work or school due to asthma
- You have a normal lung function (spirometry) test
- You do not need to use your reliever (rescue) inhaler more than 3 times per week (except for exercise)
Signs of Poor Asthma Control
- You have frequent breathing difficulties and find yourself coughing or wheezing most days
- Your asthma impacts your sleep; if your asthma symptoms wake you up or keep you up at night your asthma isn’t controlled
- You can’t exercise or exert yourself physically without experiencing breathing difficulties
- You frequently miss work or school due to asthma
- You use your reliever medication more than 3 times per week
Possible Reasons For Poor Asthma Control
If your asthma is poorly controlled, it might be because you are:
- Not using the right asthma medication to treat your asthma. Understanding all of the different types of asthma medications available can be confusing so speak with your healthcare provider about finding a treatment plan that works for you.
- Not using your inhalers properly. Show your healthcare provider or asthma educator or pharmacist how you use your inhalers to make sure you are using proper inhaler technique.
- Not using your controller medication regularly. Use your controller medication every day as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your asthma medications, how to use them, and their doses.
- Are being exposed to a trigger that is causing breathing problems. Identify what your asthma triggers are avoid them. You can work with your healthcare provider to help determine your triggers and an avoidance plan.
- Are over-reliant on your reliever (rescue) inhaler. You should not be relying solely on your reliever medication to treat your asthma. If you are using your reliever medication more than 3 times per week, you need to speak with your healthcare provider about your asthma and controller medications. Are you worried that you are overly-relying on your reliever medication? Find out by taking the short test at http://www.rateyourreliance.ca/ to assess your risk.
- Not following an Asthma Action Plan. Not following an Asthma Action Plan in itself won’t cause poor asthma control, especially if you are already taking your medications as prescribed and avoiding triggers, but having an Action Plan can help you recognize when your asthma is worsening and help you know what steps to take to get it back under control
What To Do If Your Asthma Is Poorly Controlled
If your asthma is poorly controlled you need to speak with your healthcare provider. Uncontrolled asthma is very serious and could lead to a life-threatening asthma attack. It’s vital that you take your asthma seriously and recognize when your symptoms aren’t properly controlled. Over time, poorly controlled asthma can cause permanent damage to your airways that cannot be reversed. This is called ‘airway remodeling’. It is important to have proper treatment for your asthma to avoid this permanent damage.
If your asthma is not well controlled, talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. You can gain control of your asthma by:
- Taking your controller medication as prescribed to minimize symptoms and reduce inflammation in the airways
- Avoiding your personal asthma triggers as much as possible
- Carrying your reliever (rescue) medication with you at all times
- Working with your healthcare provider to create an Asthma Action Plan and following it
- Discussing your asthma with your healthcare provider on a regular basis so that your asthma never becomes uncontrolled and your treatments can be adjusted if necessary.
When it comes to staying healthy while living with asthma and having proper asthma control there are some basics that everyone with asthma should be aware of:
- Always get a proper asthma diagnosis from a healthcare professional.
- Take your asthma medications as prescribed; most people use a daily controller medication while also carrying a reliever (rescue) medication for emergencies.
- Don’t become reliant on your reliever inhaler to manage your asthma — if you are taking your reliever medication more than 3 times per week your asthma is not properly controlled and you should speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
- Create an Asthma Action Plan with your doctor and use it as part of your asthma management routine. You can also use a Peak Flow Meter to monitor your asthma and lung function.
- Know what your asthma triggers are and how to avoid them as much as possible. If you have allergic triggers work with your doctor or allergist to manage your allergy symptoms.
- Know the steps to take when having an asthma attack.
Asthma Action Plan
An Asthma Action Plan is a crucial tool for helping manage your asthma and stay healthy. It helps with controlling your asthma, you can download one today and complete it with your doctor.
Asthma Red Flags
Red and Yellow Flags are signs that your asthma control isn’t what it should be and that you may need referral to an asthma specialist. Find out if you have any red or yellow flags and when to see a specialist.
If you’re recently diagnosed or are living with asthma, we have many resources that can help you better understand, and manage your disease. Visit the resources section of our website to get started.