Asthma attacks and asthma symptoms can be scary, but if you have an action plan in place they can be prevented. For this World Asthma Day, we’ll look at our top tips to help you minimise your symptoms and lower your risk of having an attack.
1. Create an action plan
Asthma UK recommend that you should use an asthma action plan to be better equipped to manage your symptoms.
An asthma action plan will contain all of the information you need in one place, making it more accessible for you and for anyone else who needs to know. It will remind you to look after your asthma each day (normally using your preventer medication), and tells you what you need to do if your asthma gets worse.
If you don’t have an action plan yet, you can download one from Asthma UK, or speak to your GP or asthma nurse.
2. Know your triggers and avoid them
Allergens or other airborne irritants can make your asthma symptoms worse by irritating your airways.
Some irritants, like the vapours from cleaning products or aerosols, can be easily avoided by switching to products that don’t cause a reaction. Other irritants aren’t so easy. Irritants like dust or pollen are naturally in your home, despite how much you clean. You might find it helpful to use something like an air purifier.
Did you know that excess humidity can also trigger your asthma? Humidity isn’t something we often think about, but if you walk into a muggy room and the air feels thick, that’s the humidity. To control this in the rooms most susceptible (bathrooms and kitchens), you might consider a dehumidifier.
Uncontrolled humidity can lead to the growth of black mould, which can cause asthma in those who don’t suffer, so it’s very important for this not to happen.
3. Take your preventer every day
As mentioned above, you need to take your preventer medication every day. This is because it builds up over time, stopping your airways from getting inflamed and making it so you’re less likely to react to your triggers.
Getting into a good routine with your reliever could mean you stay symptom free, so it’s worth making sure you stay on top of it.
4. Carry your reliever inhaler with you everywhere
If you suddenly experience unexpected symptoms, you need to be able to act fast to prevent them from getting worse. If you act quickly, you can reduce the risk of a full asthma attack.
However, if you find yourself using your reliever inhaler more than 3 times per week, this is a sign that you need to speak with your GP or asthma nurse urgently, as your asthma may be getting worse.
5. Quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke
Tobacco smoke, either directly or indirectly, and other smoke like that from bonfires can irritate your airways and exacerbate your symptoms. As well as this, smoking cigarettes can reduce the effectiveness of your asthma medication, so if you smoke and then need to use your inhaler, it might not work as well as you hope.
6. Check that you’re using your inhaler properly
There are many different types of inhalers out there, so you might lose track of how to use each one. However, it’s important to ensure you have the right technique as it can affect how much medicine actually gets into your airways. Similarly, you can experience side effects if this medicine stays in your mouth.
If you’re not sure, you can check out Asthma UK’s video tutorials, or ask your doctor or asthma nurse to check it for you when you go for your asthma review.
7. Go for your annual asthma review
Your once-a-year asthma review is a chance for you to, as you might expect, review your asthma for the last year. You can update your action plan and check your inhaler technique.
You can also raise any issues, and check that you’re taking the right medication in the right doses to manage your symptoms.
Even if you’ve been living majorly symptoms-free, it’s worth attending this appointment to make sure that this continues.
However, if you’re noticing your symptoms getting worse or you’re using your reliever inhaler 3 or more times a week, don’t wait for your next review.
8. Get active
Being active can help to improve your asthma symptoms by increasing your stamina and helping your lungs to work better. Staying active can also boost your immune system, meaning you’ve got some defence against bacteria and viruses that may make your symptoms worse.
However, for some people exercise can be an asthma trigger, so you should have your asthma under control before you start and work closely with your GP or asthma nurse.
9. Try to avoid getting sick
In an ideal world it would be as easy as that, and we know it isn’t, but colds and flu can make your symptoms worse and put you at risk of having an asthma attack.
Use the skills you’ve learned over the last 3 years to minimise your risk.
You can also get the flu shot and ask your GP or asthma nurse if the pneumonia shot is worthwhile for you.