Managing Asthma

The biggest way to not have Asthma taking over your life, having the most chance of living your life like anyone else is by managing your asthma well. This starts with understanding about asthma, and then understanding YOUR asthma; what are your triggers ?(sometimes there are more than we think). Having regular reviews with your nurse/ respiratory consultant or doctor and your GP so that they can most effectively monitor, manage and treat your asthma. Taking any medication we have been prescribed regularly and on time as advised. Then lastly, self management of our asthma. This is the biggest part that plays in a role in good management of asthma.

So step 1 – Do you really know what Asthma is? Do your friends and family understand so they they can best support you and help you in case of any emergencies? Do you really what your asthma is? What affects you? If no is the answer to any of these, address them so that you can answer yes to all of them.

Step 2 – Are you having regular check ups at your doctor for asthma reviews? Are you seeing a specialist for your asthma? (this may be an asthma nurse in your GP practice or at a local respiratory clinic) Have you had your medication for your asthma reviewed recently? Do you have a written Asthma plan in place? Again, if no is the answer to ANY of these you need to change it.

step 3 – Do you take all your prescribed asthma medication as directed? No matter how good your asthma is or how long it’s been since an asthma attack it’s important to always keep taking your medication and inhalers as directed. Taking your preventer inhaler for example will lower the chances of your asthma flaring up and also reducing the severity of it.

Step 4 – Managing your asthma and monitoring it: making sure you carry around emergency information with you so that people know you are asthmatic, what medication you are on, emergency contacts etc. This can save your life and i have created a template for a business card size to help you out – all you need to do is fill it out, print it and put it in your purse/wallet. (emergency-info-card-blank). Next is monitoring your asthma, this comes in handy for picking up early that your asthma is deteriorating so that you can seek help and start treatment sooner. It is also useful in noticing patterns, working out triggers, seeing how well managed your asthma is and also you can take it to doctors appointments and they can see how your asthma is. Sometimes, because we live with things on a daily basis we don’t always notice things. You’d be suprised at how many ways this comes in handy. Doing peak flows – sometimes your peak flows drop before any symptoms at all and quick action can save an admission and a longer recovery! Here is a chart i have created, with some examples in. Personalise accordingly and fill out any information you deem relevant, such as if you have a cold at the time etc. Think of this as like your daily asthma diary. ( chart-asthma-blank )

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Why it’s so important to manage your asthma

When asthma’s well managed, most people should be free of symptoms. Severe asthma can be harder to control but for the majority of people with asthma, the aim of treatment is to manage your asthma so that:

  • You get no daytime symptoms
  • You get no night-time waking due to asthma
  • You don’t need to use reliever inhalers (usually blue)
  • You don’t have any asthma attacks
  • Asthma doesn’t limit your daily life (including working and exercising).

Keeping your asthma well managed is also vital for the long-term health of your lungs. Frequent asthma attacks have been shown to cause damage to the lungs  – just as heart attacks can leave your heart damaged. You wouldn’t expect three heart attacks to leave your heart undamaged, and it’s just the same with repeat asthma attacks.  (Asthma UK, 2016)

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Better control, less medicine

Some people don’t like the idea of taking medicine every day but if your asthma’s well managed, you’re actually less likely to need to use your reliever inhaler very often. And you’ll be kept on the lowest dose of preventer inhaler necessary to keep you free of symptoms. So, overall, managing your asthma well can mean using less medicine. If you have to pay for your prescriptions, managing your asthma well may even save you money.(Asthma UK, 2016)

Other advantages of staying on top of your asthma

It’s not just about your physical health. As asthma can have a big impact on your life and the people around you, managing it well has all sorts of benefits. Here are some of them:

  • You can get on with doing the things you want to do – from travel to sex to exercise – without feeling concerned that asthma symptoms might get in the way
  • Your loved ones will worry less about you
  • You won’t need to miss out on any aspects of family life, from playing energetic games with your children to helping elderly relatives
  • You’re less likely to need time off work due to symptoms

(Asthma UK, 2016)

Reduce your risk of going to hospital with your asthma

Research shows that if you understand your asthma and what triggers it, and if you know how to spot symptoms getting worse and what to do about them, you’re much less likely to need to go to hospital with an asthma attack. Using a written asthma action plan helps you manage your asthma well and actually means you’re four times less likely to be admitted to hospital for your asthma. (Asthma UK, 2016)

Stay well with your asthma

Every ten seconds someone in the UK has a potentially life-threatening asthma attack and evidence shows that certain factors, such as allergies, increase your risk. So it’s really important to know your risks and find out more about the best ways to manage your asthma so you can lower them.

For example, smoking will stop you from managing your asthma well and put you and your children at risk of symptoms. Find out how smoking will affect your asthma and your child’s asthma, and get advice and support on giving up so you can manage your asthma better. (Asthma UK, 2016)

Look after your emotional health

Your emotional well-being can make a real difference to your asthma and how you look after it. Also, look into the specific issues around managing asthma when you’re also dealing with depression or anxiety.

Your GP and asthma nurse are there to help you look after your asthma in the best way and your local pharmacist can also give you support.

(Asthma UK, 2016)

Make positive changes

Asthma is a long-term condition, so managing it has to be a long-term commitment. Having a strong support network is very important, especially when you’re first diagnosed or you’re struggling with your asthma.  (Asthma UK, 2016)


What to do if you think your asthma is getting worse?

If you are experiencing any of the following, please seek medical advice as soon as possible:

  • your reliever inhaler (usually blue) is not helping to relieve symptoms
  • your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheeze or tight chest)
  • you are too breathless to speak, eat or sleep.

For a small number of people, asthma symptoms like this can come on quickly. But for most people, symptoms rarely just come “out of the blue”. They build up gradually over a few days, and research shows that symptoms often rapidly increase two or three days before an asthma attack.

So it’s very important to be able to spot the common signs that show asthma’s getting worse – if you get help quickly, you may be able to ward off a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

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Signs your asthma is getting worse include:

  • needing more and more reliever inhaler (usually blue)
  • wheezing
  • waking in the night with coughing or wheezing
  • having shortness of breath or feeling tight in the chest
  • having to take time off work or study because of your asthma
  • feeling that you can’t keep up with your normal activities or exercise
  • a drop in your peak flow meter readings
  • not being able to walk as far or as fast as usual, or being breathless when you do.
    (Asthma UK, 2016)

Don’t ignore the signs!

If you notice any of these signs, it means your asthma symptoms are getting worse and you need to take action now. This is a vital window of opportunity to prevent an asthma attack.(Asthma UK, 2016)

What to do if your symptoms are getting worse

  1. Make an urgent appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse within 24 hours.
  2. Follow the advice on your written asthma action plan. If you don’t have one, download one and fill it in with your GP or asthma nurse when you go for your appointment.
  3. Take a rescue course of steroid tablets (prednisolone) if it’s written on your asthma action plan and you’ve been given a course to keep at home.
  4. Avoid your asthma triggers if possible. (Asthma UK, 2016)

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Not sure whether you’ve really noticed worsening symptoms?

Stay safe and check with your GP or asthma nurse anyway – you won’t be wasting their time, and they will be pleased you’ve taken action to check with them. Or you can call the friendly expert nurses on the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800. We don’t want to scare you, but you may be risking a potentially life-threatening asthma attack if you don’t quickly get the help you need. Alternatively, call 111. They can also help offer advise and are available 24/7. (Asthma UK, 2016)

What will happen if your symptoms are getting worse?

If your symptoms are getting worse you should go to see your GP or asthma nurse to get your asthma checked. They will ask you about your symptoms and how you’re feeling. They may listen to your chest and check your peak flow to see how it compares to normal. They should also talk to you about how often you take your medicines, and check your inhaler technique.

Sometimes it may be necessary to increase the dose of your preventer inhaler, or your GP or asthma nurse may need to add in other medicines and inhalers to help you. Sometimes when asthma gets worse it’s necessary to treat the inflammation with a short “rescue” course of steroid tablets (these are called prednisolone). You may have been given a pack of these to keep at home.

The good news is that with the right care and treatment, most people are able to lead full, active lives with minimal symptoms. Once your asthma has been well managed for at least three months, your asthma nurse or GP may suggest “stepping down” (or reducing) your medicines. The goal is for you to manage your symptoms on the least amount of medicine possible, ideally so that you’re symptom-free. Reducing medicine should be done gradually and if symptoms return you should step your treatment back up again. (Asthma UK, 2016)

Don’t be worried if you feel like you are having a decline in your asthma, in some people asthma can fluctuate many times in a persons life. Just because it’s getting worse, doesn’t mean you can’t get it to improve. Just have patience, positive and perseverance! 

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References:

Asthma UK – Managing asthma 2016 (https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/manage-your-asthma) [accessed 20/01/2017]

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