Managing Adult Asthma - Develop an Action Plan for Any Circumstance | Treatment Care & Tips
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Treatment Care & Tips

Managing Asthma as an Adult: What’s your plan of action?

Asthma affects children and adults alike. About 10% adults have asthma in the U.S1. Asthma is a long-term disease that affects the airways in and out of your lungs. The symptoms of asthma can come and go. They may range from mild to life threatening2.

Asthma can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and chest tightness. While it is sometimes difficult to identify the cause of asthma. Environmental factors such as airborne allergens (pollen, dust, mold) and air pollution (tobacco, smoke) are typical triggers3. Studies have also shown a clear link between second-hand smoke and asthma, specifically in children4. Other triggers may include: strong emotions, such as laughing or crying; infectious diseases, such as the flu or a cold; household chemicals, such as cleaning supplies, fragrances; physical exercise; cockroach droppings; pet dander and high-humidity environments.  You may be frustrated with this long list, but don’t fear! Your asthma can be controlled with medications and these triggers may not affect you if you take your medication correctly.

 

Your asthma medications are very important in managing the disease and can be lifesaving. There are two types of asthma medications that may seem similar but play very different roles: 

Controller (Long-term Medication)

  • Decreases swelling in your lungs and helps to prevent an asthma attack.
  • Take this medication every day. Do not stop taking unless your doctor tells you to. You should take your medication even if you don’t have any symptoms.
  • Your doctor may recommendthat you take medicine during the spring and fall seasons. It can take up to a month to get the full benefit from this medicine, so start taking it early, before the season starts.

 

Rescue (Short-term Medication)

  • Use this medication during an asthma attack. It helps to relieve symptoms within a few minutes. Always carry this with you.
  • Talk with your doctor if you need to use your rescue inhaler more than twice a week. This may mean that your asthma is not well controlled. Your provider may need to change your medicine or make sure you are taking it correctly.

 

How can you manage your asthma?

Asthma symptoms can be managed by managing medications, limiting environmental triggeres and making small lifestyle changes. Although there is no cure to the disease, following these tips can help manage it long-term:

 

  • Learn how to take your medications. Know the difference between controller and rescue medications.
  • Monitor your symptoms. Check in regularly to see how your breathing, coughing and other symptoms change over time.

 

  • Identify your triggers. Does smoke or mold cause your symptoms to act up? Know what triggers your asthma so you can minimize exposure. Your triggers may be different from someone else’s triggers.
  • Create an asthma action plan. Plan ahead in case of an asthma emergency so you’ll know what to do if your asthma symptoms quickly worsen.
  • Visit your doctor for regular checkups. They may have advice on how to adjust your medication, especially during season changes, which can trigger asthma symptoms.
  • Protect against infections. Avoiding others who may be sick. Talk with your doctor about other ways you can protect yourself from getting sick.
  • Stay active and exercise regularly. Work with your doctor to create an exercise plan that works for you.
  • Pay attention to weather alerts. Avoid spending lots of time outdoors when there are high pollen alerts.
  • Stay inside during extremely hot and cold days. Temperature extremes can cause difficulty breathing.
  • Eat a well balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight. Eat foods rich in Vitamin D like salmon and eggs. Foods rich in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables, can also help reduce asthma prevalence5.
  • Minimize Tobacco Smoke. Tobacco smoke is one of the most common and harmful triggers.  Secondhand smoke can be just as harmful. Smoking has many harmful effects on the body. It is especially harmful to the lungs of people with asthma. Tobacco can settle in your airways. Tobacco can also damage cells inside your airways that protect it from dust and mucus. As mucus builds up, you may have difficulty breathing and be at higher risk for an attack6.

 

Avoid Secondhand Smoke

  • Do not smoke in your home or car
  • Visit only non-smoking restaurants 
  • Make sure schools and daycares your children attend are smoke-free
  • Be a good role model by not smoking
  • If you need help quitting smoking, talk to your doctor 

 

Season and weather changes too can cause more difficulty in breathing for people with asthma. Keep your asthma in check during the change in season with these tips:

 

Winter

  • Warmth & Humidity – Dry, cold air can be tough on airways. Breathe through your nose helps  warm and moisten the air. A scarf around the face also helps to humidify the air.
  • Manage the Flu – The flu and other viruses can lead to an asthma attack. Get a flu shot and wash your hands regularly.
  • Fireplace Etiquette – Any smoke from wood at all can flare symptoms. Sit further back from the fireplace.
  • Keep Filters Clean – Increasing the humidity and warm air in your house can lead to indoor allergens such as dust mites and mold. Clean filters in heaters and humidifiers regularly.
  • The Holiday’s – The smell of a live Christmas tree, or any strong scent, may cause symptoms to flare. If you have a real tree, let it dry in a garage for a week and give it a good shake before bringing it inside.
  • How to Carry the Inhaler – Holding the inhaler close to your body will help keep the medication warm. This, in turn, will let the medication be absorbed into the system faster.

Summer

  • Pollen & Allergies – Breezes spread pollen and may trigger symptoms if you have grass, tree pollen, or mold allergies.
  • Avoid Dryness – Stay clear of dry, dusty areas.
  • Problems with the Pool – The smell of chlorine can be an asthma trigger.
  • Caution around the Campfire – Campfire smoke can cause an asthma attack. Sit further away and in the opposite direction of where the smoke is drifting.
  • Stinging Insects – If you are also allergic to stinging bugs you should: Cover up when being outdoors; avoid wearing bright-colored clothing and scented sprays or lotions; skip eating or drinking anything sweet.

 

NEED TO ADD IN TIPS FOR MANAGING ASTHMA

 

Asthma is a serious disease that affects more and more U.S. adults each year. Gateway Health is here to help you.

To learn more about the Gateway’s  program, you can call and speak to a Care Coordinator. 

 

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/impacts_nation/asthmafactsheet.pdf
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/pdfs/asthma_facts_program_grantees.pdf
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/pdfs/asthma_facts_program_grantees.pdf
  4. http://www.aafa.org/page/secondhand-smoke-environmental-tobacco-asthma.aspx
  5. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/96/3/534/4576801
  6. https://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/smoking-and-asthma#1

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