Asthma Controlling

Whether you or someone you love is suffering from asthma, it doesn’t need to impede your quality of life. There are many effective methods available for controlling asthma that are as simple as everyday chores.

Following are some ways to better understand how asthma affects you, and some methods of asthma control that may suit your needs.

Asthma Basics

Asthma is a disease of the airways, or bronchial tubes, that constricts breathing. Before an asthma attack, the airways are relaxed and open, allowing air to easily fill the lungs. During an attack, muscles constrict around the airways, and mucus blocks air from passing through. Common symptoms of asthma include:

  • coughing
  • feeling of tightness in the chest
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing.

Researchers have not fully determined the cause of asthma, but studies have linked it to both genetics and lifestyle choices. While the condition is rarely fatal, it can lead to serious medical complications if not properly managed.

Everyone experiences asthma in a different way. Some may find that they are faced with symptoms every day, while others only have trouble under certain conditions. To keep asthma from decreasing your quality of life, you need to understand your asthma and manage it effectively.

Understanding Your Asthma

There are two basic steps involved in understanding your asthma: monitoring your symptoms and checking your lungs.

Though your symptoms may be troubling, they can actually help you find the treatment that is best for you. Keep a record of the conditions and characteristics of your asthma attacks, including:

  • The activities you were doing (hiking, running, etc.).
  • The conditions of your environment (dusty room, second-hand smoke, etc.).
  • The consequences of your attacks (losing sleep, decreased productivity, etc.).
  • The frequency of your attacks (daily, monthly).
  • The feelings you experience (pain, chest tightness, etc.).
  • The sounds you hear (wheezing, whistling, etc.).

Additionally, checking your lungs can help you understand and control your asthma. Asthma control tests use a measure of your lung function to determine the severity of your condition. There are two common asthma control tests:

  • Peak Flow: A peak flow meter can detect subtle changes in your airways even when your asthma seems under control. It measures your peak expiratory flow (PEF), or the fastest rate at which you can exhale forcefully. When used regularly, decreases in PEF levels can help to alert you of an oncoming attack.
  • Spirometry: Spirometry tests measure how much air your lungs can hold, and how much air you can force out of your lungs after a deep breath. The spirometer gives a reading of the forced expiratory volume (FEV), which is then compared to the average figure for someone without asthma. The lower your figure, the more treatment you may need.

Controlling Asthma

Once you’ve gained a better understanding of the conditions and severity of your asthma, you can determine how to manage it. Short-term treatments, long-term treatments and trigger avoidance are common methods for controlling asthma.

Inhalers are the most common form of short-term asthma control, and can be used for fast relief or in preparation for exercise. They typically contain albuterol, which quickly opens up the airways when inhaled. Inhalers alone may be sufficient for those with mild asthma, or they can be used in conjunction with other treatments for more severe cases.

For asthma sufferers who experience more frequent or intense asthma attacks, long-term treatments may be a good fit. These typically take the form of daily pills or inhaled corticosteroids. Such medications target the inflammation itself, reducing or eliminating the need for short-term treatments.

If certain triggers are more likely to cause asthma attacks, then avoiding those triggers can help. Trigger avoidance is a natural asthma control method that can increase the effectiveness of other asthma treatments or eliminate the need for them altogether. Some common triggers include:

  • allergens (animal dander, dust, mold, pollen, etc.)
  • chemical vapors (perfume, paint, etc.)
  • cold air
  • illnesses, especially ones that affect the lungs
  • tobacco or wood smoke.

Some suggestions for avoiding these triggers include:

  • Allergens: Dogs, cats and small pets such as birds or rodents should be kept outdoors or out of rooms where asthma sufferers regularly spend time. Keep your house clean by dusting regularly, removing all mold and eliminating cockroaches or other pests. Avoid exercising or spending extended periods of time outside on days when pollen counts are high.
  • Chemical vapors: avoid using perfumes, cleaning chemicals and other solvents that give off fumes. Consider using laundry detergents and personal hygiene products that are hypo-allergenic.
  • Cold air: When it is cold outside, consider wearing a scarf over your mouth. Opt for exercising indoors on cold days.
  • Illnesses: If you catch a cold or other ailment, take steps to remedy it as quickly as possible.
  • Tobacco or wood smoke: Ask those who smoke to quit or to do so outside. Curb the effects of wood smoke in the home by keeping chimneys clean and running an air filter.

Asthma doesn’t need to keep you from enjoying life or the activities that you love. By better understanding your asthma conditions and taking steps to manage it, you will also be taking steps toward maintaining a better quality of life.

Resources

American Lung Association. (2009). Controlling asthma triggers. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from the American Lung Association Web site: http://www.lungusa.org/site/pp.asp?c=dvLUK9O0E