Monitoring your asthma symptoms will help you keep your asthma under control. You and your doctor can develop an asthma action plan that gives you instructions on how to monitor your asthma and what to do if it gets worse. It can include the following things:

  • Your symptoms, including how often your asthma symptoms occur, how severe they are, and whether they interrupt your sleep or daily activities.
  • How you are using your medications, including how you use your inhaler device, how often you need reliever medication, and whether you are experiencing any side effects
  • Your peak expiratory flow (PEF). You can use a device called a peak flow meter to measure how quickly you can force air out of your lungs. A peak flow meter is a small, portable plastic device that helps you keep track of whether your asthma is under control - the closer your peak flow is to your "personal best" (the highest peak flow result you've had in the last 2 to 3 weeks), the better your asthma is under control.

You may need emergency medical attention if:

  • you have experienced any of the following for at least 15 minutes:
    • you cannot do your regular activities because you are short of breath
    • you feel short of breath and your reliever medication isn't helping
  • you feel very short of breath
  • your lips or fingernails are blue

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency department right away. The emergency doctor or paramedics will go through a series of steps to treat your asthma attack, including oxygen and medications (beta agonists and anticholinergics) by mask, and oral or intravenous corticosteroids. After you have recovered, your doctor may recommend that you take a short course of oral corticosteroids to help reduce the inflammation in your airways. The doctor may also review your medications to determine if there needs to be any treatment changes.