So how can you tell if you're really doing a good job of keeping your asthma symptoms in check? There are six key signs that you should watch out for:
Your symptoms flare frequently. How many times a week do you experience tightness in your chest, coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath, or other asthma symptoms? If your asthma treatment plan is working, you should have symptoms no more than twice a week. And if you're having symptoms daily, you have uncontrolled asthma—and need to talk to your doctor about developing a better action plan.
You're cutting back on your life. If you find yourself cutting back on activities because you're experiencing asthma symptoms, it's time to see your doctor and learn how to control your asthma.
Trouble sleeping. People's airways tend to contract naturally during sleep. But when you have asthma your airways are already restricted—especially if you have uncontrolled asthma—and that little bit of extra narrowing during sleep could spell trouble. Talk to your doctor if your asthma causes sleep problems more than once a month.
You're breaking the rule of two. Using a rescue inhaler more than twice a week can be a sign that your lung function is in poor shape. Follow your doctor's instructions regarding your rescue inhaler. If you find that you are using your rescue inhaler frequently to treat symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.
Your peak flows are tanking. Peak flow meter readings can help both you and your doctor understand how your lungs are doing. If your doctor has directed you to use a peak flow meter to measure your lung function daily at home, it's important to use it regularly. Some temporary fluctuations in your peak flow readings may be expected. But if your peak flow readings are below your personal best or declining, it could be a sign that you need better asthma control.
You know the ER nurse's name. Here's a sure sign that you have uncontrolled asthma: You're in the ER because of it. If you have to take a trip to the emergency room because of an asthma attack, be sure to schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor right away to discuss your asthma management program.
Revisit your asthma action plan. It's important to try and get your asthma under control as soon as you notice signs that it's getting worse. Talk to your healthcare provider about your asthma action plan—and have her put it in writing, including any updates or adjustments your treatment program may require.
- Q How can I tell if I'm having an asthma attack?
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