The goal is asthma control

Over the past few decades, people with asthma have benefited from a number of scientific advances (including effective medications), with the overall goal of having the best control possible. The term "asthma control" refers to how well your symptoms are controlled, and it involves both the severity of your asthma as well as your response to treatment.

There are three levels of asthma control:

  • controlled (all of the following)
  • partly controlled (any of the following present in any week)
  • uncontrolled

Levels of asthma control

Asthma indicators Controlled Partly controlled Uncontrolled
Asthma symptoms during the day Two or fewer times per week More than two times per week Three or more features of partly controlled asthma present in any week
Activities limited by symptoms None Any Three or more features of partly controlled asthma present in any week
Asthma symptoms during the night or awakening at night because of asthma None Any Three or more features of partly controlled asthma present in any week
Peak expiratory flow (lung function) Normal Less than 80% of predicted or personal best (if known) Three or more features of partly controlled asthma present in any week
Need for reliever/ rescue treatment Two or fewer times per week More than two times per week Three or more features of partly controlled asthma present in any week
Asthma attacks None One or more per year One in any week

Recent research has shown that asthma control has not improved in Canada over the years. In fact, many people with asthma are unaware that they may not have the best control over their condition. In one Canadian study, 97% of people believed that their asthma was controlled, but, in reality, only 47% actually had control (as assessed by their health care team, according to specific criteria). When asked about what they would do when experiencing an attack (exacerbation), only 11% of people had a written asthma action plan, and even fewer (about half of those who had a plan) actually used these plans.

It is important to understand whether your asthma is controlled, and then have a specific goal of having the best control possible. Challenge yourself to reach your goal, and check your treatment plan frequently to make sure that it is still working well for you. There are a number of things that you can do:

  • Educate yourself and do some planning. Learn about self-management education basics and work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan that is specific to your needs.
  • Be adherent. Take your medications exactly as prescribed or intended.
  • Work with your health care team. Partner with your educator, doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to best manage your condition and adjust your plan as needed.

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/Sticking-to-Your-Asthma-Treatment-Plan

Asthma self-management: the key to your success

More and more research has shown that people who are informed about their medical conditions and actively involved in managing these conditions will have better outcomes than those who don't become engaged in their health. "Self-management" refers to the tasks that an individual person must do to live well with one or more chronic conditions.

People with asthma are a natural fit with the concept of self-management. Traditional education involves condition-specific information and focuses on technical skills that may or may not improve a person's life. For example, a person receiving traditional asthma education might be taught how to properly use their inhaler, how to use their peak flow meter, and how to avoid triggers. In comparison, asthma self-management education involves many of the same topics as traditional education, but also incorporates problem-solving skills. For example, a person receiving asthma self-management education might learn tools that help them assess their own situation, set their own goals, and solve their own problems (with the support of their health care team). He or she might learn how to anticipate future problems (such as worsening symptoms) and know what to do if problems arise (having a written asthma action plan in place).

Asthma is a variable condition, and a treatment plan must allow for adjustments. A variable condition is one in which symptoms are different between people, and/or symptoms in the same person are different during different points in time (i.e., over the course of a year). Asthma self-management education is helpful in empowering people to take responsibility for their written treatment plan (as well as helping to understand any changes in the plan that result from changes in asthma control). It is essential that this asthma action plan be written down and specific to an individual's needs.

Keeping your asthma under control can reduce your risk of an asthma attack and help you lead an active life. In order to keep your asthma under control, it's important to use your asthma medications exactly as recommended by your doctor. Controller medications help keep your asthma under control over time to reduce your risk of asthma attacks. For most people, they should be taken regularly, even when you have no symptoms. Check with your doctor if you are unsure. Reliever medications are used as needed to provide quick relief for asthma symptoms. If you're not sure what your asthma medications are for or how to use them, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

If you would like to be successful in controlling your asthma, there's no time like the present to get started. Find out more about asthma self-management education. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to keep your symptoms at bay. And remember that learning isn't a one-time deal. It's a continuous process, and if you can be committed to asthma self-management education, you will be well on your way to reaching your goal of having the best control possible.

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/Sticking-to-Your-Asthma-Treatment-Plan

Make it easy to stick to the plan

With so many different parts to an asthma treatment plan, it is sometimes difficult for some people to stay focused and take their medications exactly as prescribed or intended. However, there are many reasons to stay on track. People who take their asthma medications exactly as prescribed will get the most benefit from their treatments. Also, it is much easier to make adjustments to the treatment plan if the amount of medication taken and the resulting outcomes are clear (to both the person and his or her health care team). Maximizing the benefit of existing medications and making appropriate changes when needed will ultimately help a person to reduce the number of asthma attacks and improve asthma control.

There are two main categories of asthma medications: controllers and relievers. Controllers are medications used to keep asthma under control over time and to reduce the risk of asthma attacks. Relievers are medications used to help alleviate asthma symptoms.

While most inhalers only contain one type of medication (controller or reliever), combination treatments are also available.

Here are some general tips to make sticking to your treatment plan a snap:

  • Get into a routine and take your medications at the same time each day.
  • Coordinate your medications with other daily habits (e.g., after brushing your teeth, or at dinner).
  • Plant reminders (e.g., set an alarm, leave a note in an obvious place).
  • Keep a medication calendar near your medications.
  • Plan ahead for refills so that you won't run out.
  • Clarify any changes with your health care team and write them down on your asthma action plan.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are ways to simplify your medication routine. For example, there may be a medication you can take less often, or you might be able to use a combination medication instead of multiple inhalers. Talk to your doctor about which medication routine is right for you.

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/Sticking-to-Your-Asthma-Treatment-Plan

Partners for the long haul

A key ingredient for an effective asthma treatment plan is a solid partnership between you and your health care team. Teaming up with an asthma educator, doctor, nurse, or pharmacist is the best way to come up with a treatment plan that works for the variable nature of the condition. In addition to the first version of the treatment plan, adjustments will be needed to make sure that your treatment plan is still useful.

People who experience the following may need to go back to their doctor for further reassessment of their condition and possibly changes in their treatment plan:

  • a wheezing attack or recurrent attacks of wheezing
  • a troublesome cough at night or after exercise
  • wheezing, chest tightness, or cough after exposure to airborne allergens or pollutants
  • colds that "go into the chest" or take more than 10 days to clear up
  • any other features that indicate worsened asthma control (e.g., asthma symptoms during the day, symptoms or awakenings at night, limitations in activities, worsening lung function or peak expiratory flows, increased need for reliever/rescue medications, and any asthma attacks)

You can also ask your health care team about how to make small changes to your asthma action plan that would help make it easier to stick with your medications. First of all, you have to know what you are supposed to be taking before you can take them properly! Double-check with your health care team, especially if recent changes have been made. Remember to write these changes (along with the date) on your written asthma action plan so that you don't forget them. Also, you can ask about simplifying your treatments (e.g., taking them all at a specific time, or taking a combination product instead of multiple inhalers).

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/Sticking-to-Your-Asthma-Treatment-Plan