Asthma is a common condition affecting the airways and lungs, often making it difficult to breathe. Over 5 million people currently receive treatment for asthma in the UK alone. Ideally asthma should be managed to ensure asthma attacks occur as infrequently as possible, if ever. These five tips should help you manage your asthma and its symptoms.
Know your triggers
A trigger is anything that sets off your asthma or makes the symptoms worse. Dust and pollen are two common triggers. Exercise can be another trigger in the case of exercise induced asthma. Some people have different triggers to others: for example, you might be fine walking through the pollen-heavy countryside but start coughing heavily if you’re near somebody who’s smoking. Most people will have more than one trigger. Identifying your triggers should help you avoid or at least minimise your exposure to them. If you cannot avoid exposure (e.g. in summer the pollen levels rise considerably) you know to carry an inhaler and keep your airwaves as covered as possible. Read more on Common Asthma Symptoms here.
Sounds obvious but many people with asthma are also smokers. Of course smoking is harmful to your health whether you suffer from asthma or not. However smoking is particularly harmful to people with asthma. Smoking irritates the airways and thus makes the symptoms of asthma worse. Smoking also reduces the lung capacity, which exacerbates the breathlessness often brought upon by asthma. Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death and illness in the UK. 50% of smokers die prematurely, and around 100,000 people in the UK die every year due to smoking. About 1,000 people die due to asthma each year: 1% of the number of smoking-related deaths. Get Stop Smoking Information here.
Maintain a healthy weight
A number of studies have found a link between obesity and asthma. The correlation isn’t straightforward: losing weight is unlikely to cure asthma completely. However weight loss can reduce asthma symptoms and their severity. Common effects of obesity such as breathlessness and inactivity can worsen asthma symptoms. In the UK, the NHS estimates that around 1 in 4 adults, and 1 in 5 children aged 10 to 11 are obese. (Obesity is clinically defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.) Like smoking, obesity is far more harmful to your health than asthma. Maintaining a healthy weight is very important whether you suffer from asthma or not. You can discover more about weight loss here.
Use Asthma Preventers
If you have serious asthma, and regularly use your reliever inhaler, then an asthma preventer inhaler will help you manage your symptoms. Asthma preventers contain a steroid that helps to reduce inflammation in your airways. Normally they are used twice a day (morning and evening) but this can vary depending on the individual. Preventer inhalers are different from reliever inhalers. The latter treat ongoing asthma attacks, whereas preventers aim to stop an attack from happening in the first place. There are several different types of preventer inhaler: Clenil (the most common), Qvar, Flixotide and Pulmicort. Combination inhalers contain both preventer and reliever medicine which are useful for people with severe asthma. Examples include Seretide and Symbicort. For more detailed information see‘ What is an asthma preventer?’
Keep a Personal Action Plan (PAP)
A personal action plan is devised with your doctor to treat your specific asthma. This is important as asthma can vary greatly from person to person so generalised treatment is rarely as effective as personalised treatment. What works for one person may be unsuitable or ineffective for somebody else. A PAP highlights how to use your preventer treatment, what to do in the event of an asthma attack, and how to alter your medication if your asthma worsens. Your PAP should help both you and the doctor better understand your asthma and thus how better to treat it. According to Asthma UK, using a written asthma action plan makes you four times less likely to be admitted to hospital for your asthma.