Avoiding asthma triggers

One of the ways you can control asthma symptoms and reduce your need for medication is to avoid exposure to common asthma triggers. Asthma triggers irritate your airways and cause them to become narrow and inflamed, which triggers symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.

Tips for avoiding other types of asthma triggers:

  • quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
  • if you are exposed to chemicals at work, be sure you know how to handle them safely and use all recommended protective gear (such as breathing masks)
  • avoid foods and medications that make your asthma worse
  • if you have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), get it treated
  • ask your doctor if you need to take asthma medication before physical activity
  • get a yearly flu shot (unless you are allergic to eggs or thimerosal, have had a severe reaction to a previous flu shot, or have an active infection)

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more tips on avoiding asthma triggers. Remember, all you need to do is ask - they're there to help!

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Asthma-Treatment

Understanding your asthma medications

Types of medications

Asthma medications can fall into three general categories: relievers, controllers, and combination medications.

Reliever medications, sometimes referred to as rescue medications, help stop the symptoms of an asthma attack. They are used as needed and are most effective when used at the first sign of asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. Reliever medications are also commonly used to help prevent asthma symptoms caused by exercise. Like your wallet and house keys, you should take your reliever medication with you everywhere you go, because you never know when you might need it.

Reliever inhalers contain a variety of fast-acting bronchodilators.

Controller medications, as the name implies, help keep your asthma under control over time by reducing inflammation and mucous in your airways. They reduce your lungs' sensitivity to potential asthma triggers. These medications are also referred to as maintenance medications. If your doctor has recommended a controller medication, you should use it as prescribed (it is usually used on a regular basis), even when you're not experiencing asthma symptoms. Proper and consistent use of your controller medication will help prevent complications caused by your asthma.

Controller medications include:

  • corticosteroids
  • leukotriene receptor antagonists
  • long-lasting bronchodilators
  • omalizumab
  • sodium chromoglycate and ketotifen

Combination medications contain two medications in a single inhaler. They are used by people who need to take both medications on a regular basis. Some combination medications for asthma, such as budesonide - formoterol (Symbicort®), contain a controller and reliever medication in a single inhaler. Some, such as fluticasone - salmeterol (Advair®), contain two controller medications. And others, such as ipratropium - fenoterol Duovent®), contain two reliever medications.

Using your medications properly

On their own, reliever medications will not control your asthma over time. Except in the mildest cases of asthma, controller medications are usually also required. Therefore, if you've been prescribed a controller medication, don't skip using it. And always use all your medications as prescribed.

Many people decide to stop taking their medications when their symptoms disappear. You should not stop taking your asthma medications without consulting your doctor. Most people with asthma always have some degree of inflammation and bronchoconstriction (narrowing) in their airways, even though they can't feel it. If you stop taking your medications completely, the cycle of inflammation and bronchoconstriction may start again and you could end up having a serious asthma attack. That's why it's better to ask your doctor for an asthma action plan that tells you how and when you can change the amount and type of medications you take.

Remember, asthma is a variable disease. The dose of medication you need to keep your asthma under control may change from time to time.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Asthma-Treatment

Monitoring asthma symptoms

Monitoring your asthma symptoms will help you keep your asthma under control. You and your doctor can develop an asthma action planthat gives you personalized instructions on how to monitor your asthma and what to do if it gets worse.

  • 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 (which may come as a separate inhaler or together with your controller medication in a single inhaler), 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 control. Measuring your peak flow can give you an early warning of asthma attacks even before asthma symptoms occur. Usually, you'll need to measure your peak flow each morning and evening and more often when you have asthma symptoms or attacks.

Talk to your doctor about getting a personal asthma action plan. Your asthma action plan will explain what to do when your asthma gets worse (i.e., your symptoms increase or your peak flow goes down). Find out why you need an asthma action plan and get an action plan you and your doctor can fill out together.

Sometimes, asthma symptoms can reach the point where emergency treatment is needed. Your asthma action plan will give you instructions on when to seek emergency medical treatment and what to do until help arrives.

You may need emergency medical attention if:

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

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 an oral corticosteroid for 7 to 14 days (for adults) to help reduce the inflammation in your airways. (This time period may be 3 to 5 days for children.) The doctor will also review your medications, your environment, and your asthma action plan to reduce your risk of future asthma emergencies.

Be sure you know what to do in an asthma emergency and make sure it's included in your asthma action plan.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Asthma-Treatment