In accordance with the motto of this year’s World Asthma Day, “Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions”, this is the eighth post of our mini-series about asthma based on our patient booklet “Fast Facts for Patients and their Supporters: Asthma”. Here, we focus on how you can help yourself concerning asthma.
Take Your Inhaled Preventer Medication Correctly at the Right Times
If you struggle to remember to take your preventer, set reminders on your phone. Put your preventer next to your toothbrush and take it before you brush your teeth. You can then brush your teeth and gargle, which will help you avoid thrush).
Put a Written Asthma Action Plan in Place with Your Doctor
- Know your triggers.
- Know what medications you are taking and when.
- Know how to recognize if your asthma is getting worse.
- Know what to do if you have an attack. See your doctor immediately if your asthma is no longer well controlled. You may need to step up your medication.
Book Regular Asthma Reviews
Have at least one review a year. Take your Action Plan with you and keep it updated. Your doctor may want to change it, for example by lowering your dose if your asthma is well controlled.
Exercise is good for your asthma but make sure you have your asthma well controlled before you start exercising regularly. If your asthma is not well controlled, exercise could worsen symptoms and even induce an attack. Always have your reliever medication with you when you exercise. If you find that exercise worsens your symptoms, take 2–4 puffs 10 minutes before you exercise.
Find an exercise that you enjoy. Regular low-impact exercise (30 minutes, 5 times a week), such as walking at a steady pace, will help maintain a good level of fitness. Regular swimming will improve fitness and help with breathing control. Yoga may also help with breathing control.
Avoid exercising outdoors if pollution or high pollen counts trigger your asthma. If you have severe asthma, talk to your doctor or nurse about how you can build more activity into your day.
Obesity can cause shortness of breath with or without asthma. It will also make your asthma harder to manage. Losing weight can improve your asthma and make your medications work better. Discuss your weight and your diet with your doctor.
A well-balanced diet that favors natural rather than processed foods is good for general health. High-fiber diets or high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (for example, in fish oils) may be beneficial. Fasting (for example, for religious or health reasons) does not seem to affect asthma symptoms. It may even have an anti-inflammatory effect. More study is needed in these areas.
Symptoms are often noticeably worse at night, especially in children. It is a sign that your asthma is not well controlled, so talk to your doctor or nurse about it. Keep your reliever by the side of the bed. Prop yourself up on extra pillows if it helps you to breathe.
Be Prepared When Traveling
Find out about likely triggers in the place you are visiting and strategies to avoid them. If you are planning a trip to a non-English-speaking country, learn a few important phrases about your asthma. Make sure you pack all your medications. Also pack backups in a different bag. Talk to your asthma specialist if you are on add-on treatments to ensure your therapy is maintained.
What about Alternative Medicines?
There is no conclusive evidence that acupuncture, ionizers, homeopathic medicines or herbal remedies have any benefit for asthma.
Please check out the previous and the next post of our series here:
Information based on Fast Facts for Patients and their Supporters: Asthma (Karger, 2020).