A 3 Step Approach to Keeping Your Asthma Symptoms At Bay
While interacting with asthma patients, I have come across various descriptive terms for asthma used by patients, such as choking, suffocating, drowning, breathlessness, tight chest and more. Various asthma patients describe their condition differently. Some say it’s like “drowning in a pool” or “carrying a huge weight on the chest,” while some call it “itchy lungs.”
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease of the airways: small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. When exposed to air, pollen viruses, excessive exercise, etc. the sensitive airways react and get red and swollen, causing the airway muscles to tighten and produce excess mucus.
The symptoms are characterized by shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and a feeling of tightness in the chest.
Asthma is a manageable condition and if you undergo proper management, you can live a full, healthy life. This three-step approach will keep your symptoms under control and prevent frequent asthma attacks. Controlling your asthma is no longer just a dream. Be determined and follow this strict regime to lead a healthier life.
Living with Asthma: Three Steps to Keep Asthma Under Control
For effective asthma treatment, you need to follow a strict routine to track your symptoms and measure how healthy your lungs are. Always remember that you are in charge of taking an active role in managing your asthma treatment for long-term control and prevention of future asthma attacks.
Start by creating an asthma action plan with your doctor. The treatment guide will be tailored to your specific needs.
Step 1: Keep track of your symptoms
You should write down all of your symptoms each day. Keeping a record of all your symptoms will help you to identify if you need to make any treatment adjustments on your asthma action plan. Your diary may have the following symptoms like:
• Disturbed sleep due to breathlessness, coughing and wheezing
• Whistling sounds while inhaling and exhaling
• ‘X’ number of times the usage of quick-relief inhalers like albuterol was needed
• ‘X’ number of puffs per day
• Symptoms experienced during exercise
• Symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose
• Sources that trigger asthma flare-ups
• Disruptions in daily activities caused by asthma symptoms
Step 2: Undergo regular breathing tests
Your doctor may ask you to record your breathing tests or lung function periodically. If your lungs are not in good shape, then it will be difficult to control your asthma. Two lung function tests exist:
• Peak flow: It is your personal peak flow meter that indicates how fast you can force air out of your lungs. The peak expiratory flow measurement will tell you how healthy your lungs are. Measure your peak flow at least once a day after taking your medicines. Does it read between 80%-100%? Congratulations! Your asthma is under control.
• Spirometry: This test is used to assess airway obstruction. Your doctor uses a hand-held spirometry device to perform this test. It is capable of measuring how much air your lungs can exhale in one second after taking a deep breath. The measurement is denoted as forced expiratory volume (FEV1). Your FEV1 is compared with a person who doesn’t have asthma. A level of FEV1 > 80% of predicted: normal. A level of FEV1 60% – 79% of predicted: mild obstruction. A level of FEV1 40% – 59% of predicted: moderate obstruction. A level of FEV1 < 40% of predicted: severe obstruction.
Step 3: Adjust treatment as per your action plan
Asthma is a progressive disease but can be controlled with proper treatment. Never miss your medications and strictly follow your asthma action plan. It will help you to make adjustments and keep your asthma under control. Notice when your action plan fails and make desired adjustments. There are different levels of asthma control in children older than 12 and adults. Now, what about the treatments?
There are two types of medications used depending on how severe the disease is. Long-term control medications include using inhaled corticosteroids to keep your asthma under control. They treat airway inflammation, and if used regularly, they can also reduce flare-ups and attacks. Quick-relief inhalers are also known as rescue inhalers and are fast-acting medications containing albuterol. They open all of your airways and make breathing easier. You should know the right time to use an inhaler to prevent asthma attacks.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is an apt option for severe asthma cases. This program is tailored to improve the well-being of people by making them aware of the disease and generating a sense of responsibility. The program includes:
• Evaluation of the patient
• Risk factor modification
• Learning ways to live a healthier life
This intervention helps to prevent and mitigate the adverse effects of prolonged bed rest and mechanical ventilation in critical situations. It works on strengthening your psychological status and physical ability and provides you relief from all types of pulmonary diseases like lung cancer, asthma, bronchiectasis, chronic bronchitis and more. It also aims to achieve optimal recovery of function and movement through:
• Daily physiotherapy in ICU to facilitate early weaning and shorten the length of stay in ICU
• Postural drainage, breathing exercises, chest PNF, limb mobilization, continuous rotational therapy
• Improving respiratory functions through deep breathing exercises
• Maximizing independence in activities of daily living
• Promotion of fitness and healthcare
• Reducing risk factors to help prevent future progression of pulmonary disease
• Providing education and counseling to improve patients understanding of their condition
• Dietary guidance from a dietician
• Smoking cessation service, etc.
Many doctors have claimed that long and constant use of inhalers is safe and can cure asthma completely. Keep your lungs healthy and more efficient by maintaining a proper diet, physical activity routine, and don’t forget to use your inhaler when needed.