If you have asthma, you know how frightening it is to struggle to breathe. You don’t have to live in fear. You can prevent future asthma attacks and live an active life. Work closely with your doctor and follow your asthma action plan. This will help you monitor your symptoms, take your medication, and avoid your asthma triggers. Monitor Your Asthma Symptoms To help prevent acute asthma attacks, it’s important to regularly monitor your breathing, activity level, and symptoms. This helps you recognize warning signs of an asthma attack so you can act before symptoms become severe. Sometimes symptoms are subtle and sometimes they are more obvious. Common symptoms of an acute asthma attack include: Cough Wheezing, a high-pitched whistling sound made with breathing Chest tightness Shortness of breath or trouble breathing To help monitor your breathing, your asthma care team can teach you how to use a peak flow meter. This small device measures the amount of air flowing out of your lungs as you blow into it. It is easy to use and it immediately provides valuable information. Peak flow meter readings can reveal when your breathing tubes are narrowing, an early and dependable sign that your asthma is not well controlled. If you use your peak flow meter regularly and properly, you can detect an oncoming asthma attack before you feel asthma symptoms. Take Your Asthma Medications as Prescribed Your asthma action plan will include personalized instructions for how to take your medications. There are two types of asthma medications that your doctor might prescribe: Long-term control medications to prevent asthma symptoms Quick-relief medications to stop sudden or acute asthma symptoms Your doctor will customize the amount and timing of your medication based on your needs. If you still have symptoms after following your treatment plan, tell your doctor. Your medicine may need to be adjusted. Identify Your Asthma Triggers Asthma triggers are substances or environmental factors that cause your asthma symptoms. Your triggers can vary from season to season. Many people with asthma also have allergies. Allergies can trigger asthma attacks. Your doctor may use a skin patch test to identify your specific allergies. This involves applying small amounts of common allergens to your skin to see what substances (allergens) trigger an allergic reaction and your asthma symptoms. A blood test called a radioallergosorbent test (RAST) can also help identify allergens. Allergens that commonly trigger asthma symptoms include: Animal dander from animals with fur or feathers Cockroaches Dust Dust mites Mold Pollen Other substances or situations that commonly trigger asthma symptoms, even if you don't have allergies, include: Air pollution Aspirin Cold air Exercise Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) Respiratory infections such as a cold Stress Sulfites found in certain foods, such as beer, wine, and seafood Tobacco smoke Avoid Your Asthma Triggers Once you know what triggers your asthma, you can take steps to minimize your exposure to them. Here are some tips for avoiding some of the more common asthma triggers: Beware of air pollution: Stay in air-conditioned buildings when pollen counts or air pollution levels are high. Limit cold air exposure: Dress warmly and cover your mouth and nose with a scarf when it is cold and windy. Quit smoking: If you smoke, ask your doctors for ways to quit and avoid secondhand smoke. Reduce stress: Take steps to manage your stress, such as practicing controlled breathing, getting a massage, and taking time to unwind. Stay healthy: Try to get plenty of rest, eat a well-balanced diet, and wash your hands often to prevent respiratory infections. Watch what you eat: Read food labels and avoid foods to which you are allergic. Your home may be the source of a number of asthma triggers. Take steps to keep your home free of common allergens including: Avoid dander: Do not allow pets with fur or feathers in your home. Be cockroach-free: Keep food and garbage in closed containers and exterminate cockroaches. If a spray is used, leave the room until the odor goes away. Control mold: Fix leaky pipes or appliances that can encourage mold growth. Ask someone else to clean mold with a cleaner that contains bleach. Eliminate dust mites and dander: Limit carpeting, upholstery and draperies in your home. These materials can trap and hold dust, dust mites, and animal dander. Also, use dust-proof covers on your mattress and pillows and wash fabric items frequently in hot water. Keep a clean house: Have someone vacuum your home once or twice a week. If you have to vacuum yourself, wear a facemask and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Also, have your heating vents cleaned regularly. Don't let asthma slow you down. There are many proven ways to prevent asthma attacks. Take your medicine as recommended by your doctor. Identify your asthma triggers and take steps to avoid them. And talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.