Return to Previous Page

Living with Asthma

Asthma image

Asthma is a long-term disease that requires long-term care. Successful asthma treatment requires you to take an active role in your care. Taking an active role to control your asthma involves working with your doctor and other clinicians on your healthcare team to create and follow an asthma action plan. Children aged 10 or older – and younger children who are able – also should take an active role in their asthma care.

Learn How to Manage Your Asthma
Partner with your doctor to develop an asthma action plan. This plan will help you to properly take your medicines, identify your asthma triggers, and manage your disease if asthma symptoms worsen.

If your child has asthma, all of the people who care for him or her should know about the child’s asthma action plan. This includes babysitters and workers at daycare centers, schools, and camps. These caretakers can help your child follow his or her action plan.

Most people who have asthma can successfully manage their symptoms at home by following their asthma action plans and having regular checkups.

Most people who have asthma can successfully manage their symptoms at home by following their asthma action plans and having regular checkups. However, it’s important to know when to seek emergency medical care.

Learn how to use your medicines correctly. If you take inhaled medicines, you should practice using your inhaler at your doctor’s office. If you take longterm control medicines, take them daily as your doctor prescribes.

Record your asthma symptoms as a way to track how well your asthma is controlled. Also, you may use a peak flow meter to measure and record how well your lungs are working. Your doctor may ask you to keep records of your symptoms or peak flow results daily for a couple of weeks before an office visit and bring these records with you to the visit.

These steps will help you keep track over time of how well you’re controlling your asthma. This will help you spot problems early and prevent or relieve asthma attacks. Recording your symptoms and peak flow results to share with your doctor also will help him or her decide whether to adjust your treatment.

Ongoing Care
Have regular asthma checkups with your doctor so he or she can assess your level of asthma control and adjust your treatment if needed. Remember, the main goal of asthma treatment is to achieve the best control of your asthma using the least amount of medicine. This may require frequent adjustments to your treatments.

If it’s hard to follow your plan or the plan isn’t working well, let your healthcare team know right away. They will work with you to adjust your plan to better suit your needs. You should also get treatment for any other conditions that can interfere with your asthma management.

Watch for Signs That Your Asthma is Getting Worse
Your asthma may be getting worse if

  • your symptoms start to occur more often, are more severe, and/or bother you at night and cause you to lose sleep.
  • you’re limiting your normal activities and missing school or work because of your asthma.
  • your peak flow number is low compared to your personal best or varies a lot from day to day.
  • your asthma medicines don’t seem to work well anymore.
  • you have to use your quick-relief inhaler more often. If you’re using quick-relief medicine more than two days a week, your asthma isn’t well controlled.
  • you have to go to the emergency room or doctor because of an asthma attack.

If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. He or she may need to change your medicines or take other steps to control your asthma.

Emergency Care
Most people who have asthma, including many children, can safely manage their symptoms by following the steps for worsening asthma provided in their asthma action plan. However, you may need medical attention. Call your doctor for advice if your medicines don’t relieve an asthma attack or your peak flow is less than half of your personal best peak flow number.

Call 911 for an ambulance to take you to the emergency room of your local hospital if you have trouble walking and talking because you’re out of breath or you have blue lips or fingernails.

At the hospital, you will be closely watched and given oxygen and more medicines, as well as medicines at higher doses than you take at home. Such treatment can save your life.

Partner with your healthcare team and take an active role in your care. This can help control asthma so it doesn’t interfere with your activities and disrupt your life.


Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, March/April 2010.