It’s hard to find the right words to describe an asthma attack. But I’ll try. It’s the gasping pain of trying to breathe while your lungs betray you. And sometimes it feels like it’s never going to end.
If you’ve ever suffered from asthma, you know that horrifying feeling. When I was in middle school, asthma hit me hard. I would put my quick-relief inhaler to my lips multiple times every day to help me fill my lungs with air. As you can probably guess, this didn’t exactly land me in the cool crowd.
Years later, I still remember with a ragged intensity the pain one night when my quick-relief inhaler ran out in the middle of a particularly bad attack.
I remember sitting in a scalding shower, trying to use the steam to open up my lungs and being terrified that I might die while my mom was racing home from the drug store with my refill. Luckily, incidents like this were rare. I learned my triggers and used my medication as prescribed. I learned more and more how to control my asthma.
But these stark situations don’t have to happen. With the right precautions, you can help get control of asthma.
Dr. Larry Wu, Medical Director at BCBSNC, confirmed that when I talked to him about managing asthma:
When working with patients suffering from asthma, I sense that they feel they have little or no control over their symptoms. But there are ways to care for themselves that will improve their asthma and regain control. Working directly with their provider, and adhering to their medications, in combination with these tips, can make a big difference in their quality of life.
If you have asthma, it’s important to:
- Take your asthma seriously.
- Take your asthma medicines as directed.
- Get help when your asthma symptoms don’t improve.
There are two main types of asthma medication—daily controllers and quick-relief (rescue) medications. Long term control medicines help prevent asthma symptoms and attacks, and quick-relief medications treat asthma symptoms when they start.
Ways to Help Control Asthma
To control your asthma, follow these steps:
- See your doctor or healthcare provider regularly about your asthma and work with your doctor to develop an asthma plan. This is important because your symptoms and triggers can change over time, and you need to know how to manage these changes. You may need different medicines to help keep you healthy.
- Take your asthma medicines as prescribed. Your quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines can prevent asthma symptoms and attacks, and should be taken on a regular basis, even when you feel well.
- Get educated about asthma. Learn your triggers and what you must do to stay healthy. In fact, everyone in your family should know about asthma and what to do when you need help.
- Get an annual flu shot and a pneumonia shot as directed by your doctor.
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Asthma symptoms are typically triggered by a specific factor or combination of factors. By understanding these triggers, you can limit exposure and reduce the chance of an asthma attack. Common triggers include:
- Allergies to pollens, mold, pets and other things in your environment
- Air pollution, such as tobacco smoke, high ozone levels and traffic fumes
- Exercise, especially when it leads to overexertion or in cold weather
- Household irritants, including dust, cleaning products and perfume
- Illnesses, such as a cold or respiratory infection
- Medications, including some over-the-counter pain relievers
- Weather, particularly wind and cold air
Knowing what triggers your asthma and understanding your medication(s) to manage your symptoms, you can overcome the uncertainty of asthma. Patients with asthma can live active and fulfilling lives, without fear. So get out there and take control!
[Top image: Shutterstock]