I’ve lived with asthma for nearly five decades now. Early on, it controlled me and prevented me from doing many of the things I enjoyed. But after a while, things changed for the better — I learned that I could get my asthma under control and keep it that way.
Here are a few of my tips to help you do the same.
1. Form a partnership with your doctor
You don’t have to become best friends with your doctor, but you can at least be comfortable with them. After all, you’ll likely be seeing this person a lot.
At first, your visits may be as frequent as every 3–6 months while you work together to find the best ways to get your asthma under control.
You’ll want to have a transparent and trusting relationship with your doctor as you work with them to determine which treatments work best for you (and which don’t), figure out what things trigger your asthma symptoms, and learn to identify warning signs of an impending asthma attack or symptom flare.
Having a doctor you trust and who listens to your concerns is a crucial first step in your asthma management plan.
2. Learn your asthma triggers
Sometimes this can be easy. When I was 10 years old, I went through allergy testing. I guess I shouldn’t use the word easy, because the allergy testing was anything but. That said, it did help me learn very early on what things may trigger a reaction for me.
I learned I’m severely allergic to pollen, dust mites, and mold spores — these are my asthma triggers. Some people with asthma have a harder time learning their asthma triggers as allergy testing isn’t always efficient for everyone.
It can be tricky to nail down which things are causing a reaction since we come into contact with so many substances on a daily basis. It can take a long time, but it’s worth the effort to identify them — you can’t fight an enemy you can’t see, right? And remember: Your doctor is there to help!
3. Learn how to avoid your asthma triggers
Your doctor can help you here, too. Personally, I found it was easier to learn my triggers than to avoid them, but it’s all about the small things you can do to minimize impact.
For me that means washing my bedding more frequently to minimize dust mites and avoiding going into the musty basement too often.
Avoiding triggers altogether is a major challenge (and frankly, not really possible), but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at it — and my asthma control has gotten better, too. Your do’s and don’ts may be different than mine, so you and your doctor can work together to develop a strategy that works best for you.
4. Learn your early-warning symptoms
This is another neat thing about asthma. It talks to us. It tells us when an asthma attack is impending by offering up early-warning symptoms. Swift actions when we feel these symptoms may help to stave off full-blown asthma attacks.
Allow me to give you an example.
One day, I decided to clean the basement, and as I was moving things around, my chest got tight. My nose started to run. My chin itched. I sneezed. My body was telling me that I was inhaling dust mites and basically saying, “Stop it! Get away!”
In the past, I would have ignored these symptoms and continued cleaning, and I would’ve had an asthma attack.
Today, I heed the warnings. I stop. In fact, sometimes I don’t do it to begin with. I let someone else do it. Knowing what the warning signs are — and what to do when you experience them — can potentially prevent more serious health complications.
5. Be open to trying new treatments
I think I’m safe saying this: Sometimes, those of use with asthma can be a bit stubborn. We find a medication that works, and we never want to change. I know I’ve definitely felt this way in the past. Change is hard.
However, I’ve learned it’s good to explore new treatments and ways to manage my asthma. I say this because none of the things I use today were part of my treatment plan 10 years ago.
Now my asthma was controlled 10 years ago, but our needs to manage our asthma can change over time. That may mean that our symptom management plans need to change as well.
Today, my asthma is far better controlled than it was back then, and that might not be the case if I’d resisted changing up my treatment plan. So, it certainly pays to be open-minded about discussing new medications that become available with your doctor.
6. Never quit learning about asthma
Many things about asthma you learn by trial and error, but it doesn’t always have to be this way. There are many people out there living with asthma who share their stories and tips. Many researchers are investigating our disease and have published papers and written books. They’ve created blogs in communities like ours. So, all this wisdom is available for you to learn. The more you learn, the better equipped you’ll be in your journey to obtaining better asthma control.
Today, I have my asthma under control — better than ever before, in fact. It still causes me issues from time to time, but, overall, I’m very satisfied with my quality of life. Yet, I still strive for even better asthma control.
I’ve learned that the foundation for that is following these six tips and working closely with my doctor to ensure the best possible outcomes.
I hope these tips can help you on your personal journey to better asthma control.
For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
RESP-US-NP-00102 APRIL 2019