If you have severe asthma, you know it can be
challenging. You may have a hard time keeping your asthma well-controlled, even
when it seems like you’re doing everything right. But that doesn’t mean you
should just throw in the towel and give up. There are things you can do to make
living with severe asthma more manageable.
Take charge of your severe asthma. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/5078x3397%2B0%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F1b%2F6b%2F9e8d55eb4c51ac2b654dd2ae9b73%2Fimage-null.jpg
You should have a written plan that was
developed with your doctor to help you manage your asthma. (If you don’t, ask
your doctor for one!) Your plan should list all of your medications, explain
what to do if you start to experience symptoms, and identify when you need to
call your doctor or go to the emergency room. Understand the difference between
your long-term “control” medications that should be taken daily versus your
short-term “rescue” medication to be used when your asthma symptoms flare up.
Sticking to your action plan is crucial, so ask your doctor if you have any
1. Follow your asthma action plan. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1496x1001%2B0%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Fe7%2F6e%2Fc222af8745aebe3b2368777a1c2e%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-woman-and-doctor.jpg
Don’t miss doses of your asthma medication. Place your daily
control medications in a visible place so you don’t forget to take them, like next
to your coffee maker or your toothbrush, and be certain to have your rescue
inhaler on you at all times. It’s believed many people with asthma do not use
their inhaler correctly, and therefore, do not get the full benefit of the
medication. For this reason, consider demonstrating your inhaler use for your
doctor. This also applies to the use of medical devices like spacers or
nebulizers that might be used to administer asthma medication.
2. Make sure you are taking your medications as directed. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1500x1003%2B0%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Fa3%2F8f%2F18cb76164a38837aadc074f7e9ff%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-gettyimages-474771466.jpg
If you have a severe asthma attack, you may need
to be treated with intravenous steroids in the hospital, or your doctor may
prescribe a short burst of oral steroids, like prednisone, to help calm down
the immune system and reduce swelling in your airways. Steroids can be very
helpful when taken short term, but can cause side effects like fluid retention,
high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Long term use of steroids is
generally avoided, but may sometimes be needed at a low dose. If you find you
are needing oral steroids frequently, this may suggest your severe asthma is
not being controlled.
3. Understand how systemic steroids may be used in severe asthma treatment. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Fb8%2Fd0%2F731d88bc43499b7935b0025c383d%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-woman-taking-pill.jpg
Certain things can “trigger” your airways to swell, leading
to an asthma attack. This can include smoke, animal dander, dust, mold, weather
changes, and even stress. With severe asthma, it’s important to identify your
triggers so you can do your best to eliminate them. Think about your home and
your day-to-day routine. For example, using a dehumidifier or running the air
conditioner may help decrease mold; removing your carpet may help get rid of
dust and animal dander.
4. Identify your triggers and find ways to avoid them. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1500x1003%2B0%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Ff9%2F0f%2Fe99fcfad4a248fb684ab29a01b36%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-gettyimages-523835605.jpg
When you have severe asthma, even a mild cold
can cause your asthma to flare up. You are also more likely to develop
complications, like pneumonia, if you get sick with a respiratory virus. While
it’s impossible to avoid every virus and bacteria in the environment, you
should try to minimize your risk. Simple things like washing your hands
frequently and keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth can help.
Talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot and possibly the pneumonia vaccine
too. Try to avoid contact with anyone you know is sick. Help boost your immune
system by eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of sleep.
5. Keep illnesses at bay. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F05%2F41%2F092adf19492d836839c18650c414%2Fimage-getty-170510646.jpg
Live a healthy lifestyle. Be aware that if you
are overweight, asthma symptoms tend to be exacerbated. If your doctor
approves, engaging in regular physical activity, like walking or swimming, can
be beneficial for your lungs. Get regular check ups since certain medical
conditions tend to occur along with asthma. Some common ones include: sinus
infections, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), depression, and sleep
apnea. Often, when these co-existing conditions are properly treated, your
asthma will improve as well.
6. Monitor your overall health. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1494x999%2B0%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F17%2F54%2Fc5faa5c344c9bda4712f02a39bd7%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-gettyimages-142457659.jpg
Our memories can play tricks on us, so the best
way to keep track of how well your asthma is being managed is to put it down on
paper. Keep track of when your symptoms appear and make a quick note when you
reach for your rescue inhaler. Use a handheld peak flow meter to measure how
well you are moving air out of your lungs and document those numbers. All of
this will provide you and your doctor with a clear record of any improvements
or worsening of your severe asthma.
7. Write it all down. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F68%2F49%2F9ed1d605458586b44a567