A friend of mine who also has asthma once showed me her asthma journal. It was a bunch of papers taped together that she kept folded in her purse. She said she had been using it for several months.
In it, she graphed her symptoms, medication doses, and peak flow measurements onto a chart. I always knew she was smart, but seeing how she was able to keep tabs on her asthma without using technology was eye-opening.
Many people with asthma do keep a diary, whether it’s with an app, spreadsheet, or notebook. However, keeping an asthma diary may not be for everyone, and that’s OK. If you’ve been on the fence about starting as asthma diary, here are a few things to consider.
The benefits of keeping an asthma diary
Tracking your asthma can help you to recognize patterns or identify triggers you didn’t know you had. In turn, you’ll have a better understanding of how the condition affects you and be able to avoid things or situations that cause your symptoms to spike.
Markers that are commonly tracked include:
- medication doses
- triggers (both known triggers and exposures to potential triggers if you’re recently diagnosed)
- objective measures, like peak expiratory flow, FEV1, and oxygen saturation
Tracking changes in your environment or location may also be helpful. It can help to determine if adjustments to your surroundings are the cause of worsening asthma symptoms. For instance, tracking environmental changes in my home helped me to see that a new plant in the living room was likely making my breathing worse.
The drawbacks of tracking your asthma
Keeping an asthma diary isn’t for everyone. For instance, if you tend to fixate on things, or have anxiety, it may be too stressful to see when your condition has been aggravated.
Also, if you do decide to keep an asthma diary, you should be doing it for your own benefit and not anyone else’s. Self-tracking is a simple tool for you to understand your condition better.
Getting started with self-tracking
If you’re interested in going digital with your asthma diary, there are plenty of apps out there to try that can help you log triggers and medications, create your asthma action plan, or keep track of symptoms. Some even integrate with the health kit on your phone or other wearable devices.
I have yet to find the perfect asthma app for me, and tend to use a combination of on-and-offline tools myself. Check out your apps store to see what’s available, and be sure to check out the reviews first!
If you’re more of a spreadsheet sort of person, here are a few suggestions:
- Create a Google Form to track stuff like medication doses, symptoms, peak flow, FEV1, oxygen saturation, and triggers.
- Take advantage of the various features offered on the Google Form like checklists, radio buttons, and surveys. These are great organizational tools that can really help you pinpoint where things went wrong or changed.
If you prefer pen and paper, there are tons of printable asthma diaries online. One of the simplest ones can be found on KidsHealth.org. It’s only one page and is very straightforward.
If you’re looking for something a little more detailed, consider the printable journal offered by the Ontario Lung Association. It tracks 30 days per page!
Of course, you can keep things simple and use an old-fashioned notebook to track your asthma. Many people use a notebook to capture what’s important to them and use their own methods to identify their symptoms or triggers later.
Tracking may be something you do once in a while or on a regular basis. Unless your doctor has specific suggestions, you can play around with monitoring your asthma and keeping a diary as you like.
RESP-US-NP-00082 OCTOBER 2018