Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs that causes your airways to become inflamed, narrow and swollen, and filled with mucus, making it hard for you to breathe.

Asthma affects people of all ages and while there is no cure, it’s still possible to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Working with your health care provider to develop a plan to avoid asthma triggers and taking medicines properly are very important in managing your condition well.

Take Action

Managing asthma means being aware of your triggers and avoiding them whenever possible. Use this action plan to help get you started, and work with your doctor to complete it together at your next visit.

Here are some things you can do to create a safe, healthy, asthma-friendly environment.

Asthma cannot be cured and is most often treated by taking inhaled (breathed in) medicines. There are two main types of inhalers: metered-dose inhalers and dry powder inhalers. Each inhaler is made up of two pieces: a pressurized canister of medicine and a mouthpiece.

No matter the type of inhaler you have, proper use and care can help you get the most out of your medicine, so you can effectively manage your asthma, improve your breathing, and be able to do more of the things you enjoy.

When you see your doctor to develop or update your treatment plan, you can also ask specific questions about your medicine, like what it does and why you are taking it.

Having asthma doesn’t mean you can’t live a full life. Being able to spot your triggers and knowing your signs and symptoms can help you prevent an attack and can help you better manage your asthma overall. Here are some things to focus on:

Plan for emergencies. It’s important to keep enough supply of all your asthma medicines with you. In case of an emergency, call your health care provider right away if you experience any breathing problems, shortness of breath, or increased coughing. You should call 911 if your rescue medicines are not working.

Keep your air clean. Avoid potential triggers like smoke from cigarettes and fireplaces, fumes, and strong smells. Use air filters and air conditioners to make the air in your home cleaner and more comfortable and dust-free.

Track your medicine. To get the most from your medicine, it’s important that you take it exactly as your doctor prescribed it and that you track how much medicine you use so you can plan for refills. You can use this method to figure when you’ll need to get a refill:

  • When you start a new inhaler, divide the number of puffs in the canister (the canister will often have this number printed on it) by the number of puffs you take each day. The number you get will be the number of days the canister should last. For example, if you take four puffs each day from a 200-puff canister, you will need to have a new canister every 50 days.
  • Using a calendar, count forward that many days to see when your medicine will run out. Choose a day to have your prescription refilled that is a few days before this date. Write the refill date on the canister and on your calendar or somewhere you’ll see it often, so you can remember.

Keep an asthma diary. With an asthma diary, you can write down any symptoms you have or any asthma attacks and record the triggers (if possible), the symptoms, and what kind of medicine you used for relief. You can also record your peak flow reading daily and carry your list of medicines with you.

Identify what triggers your asthma symptoms. Everyone has different triggers. You can best identify your triggers with your health care provider, but common triggers can include:

  • A cold
  • Fragrance
  • Cold weather
  • Smoke
  • Exercise
  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Mold

Get your vaccines. Talk to your health care provider to see if the flu vaccine is right for you. If you have asthma, it’s also recommended that you get the pneumonia vaccine, shingles vaccine, and Tdap vaccine. Check with your doctor to see if you need these vaccines.

Follow guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with moderate to severe asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. COVID-19 can affect your nose, throat, and lungs (respiratory tract); cause an asthma attack; and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.

People living with asthma often experience shortness of breath, and feeling short of breath can cause anxiety, which can sometimes even lead to depression. If you’ve been experiencing depression for more than two weeks or if you feel like you can’t manage, it might be helpful to talk with a mental health professional or your health care team.

The American Lung Association offers a free service for people with asthma and their caregivers through its Lung HelpLine.

Remember that having asthma is nothing to be ashamed of. More than 25 million Americans have asthma, so it is much more common than you think. Being able to speak freely among a group of people who understand what you’re going through can positively impact your health. Talk to your doctor about any support groups they may be aware of. You can also find a support group near you here.

Along with your doctor and care team, it’s important to talk to your family and friends about your asthma. Your family and friends play an important role in helping you manage your asthma, especially if they smoke. If they need help quitting, they can call 866-NY-QUITS (866-697-8487) (TTY: 711). Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

There are many myths about asthma, so it can be difficult to talk about it. Knowing the truth about your condition and sharing that information with the people in your life can help make it easier for you to manage your condition because they can support you in many ways.

Always talk with your doctor about your condition, any concerns you have, or changes to your health.


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