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Why It’s Crucial to Follow Your Asthma Treatment Plan

Why It’s Crucial to Follow Your Asthma Treatment Plan

Setting up an asthma action plan is the first step—but sticking with it is essential for maintaining asthma control.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects your lungs. When certain triggers cause symptoms to increase or worsen—often referred to as an asthma attack—it can become difficult to breathe and to take part in your normal activities. While there’s no cure for asthma, it can be treated, and it’s essential to stay on top of your management plan to keep the condition under control.

How to maintain control of your asthma
Asthma management involves a two-pronged approach: Avoiding triggers and taking medications.

For starters, knowing which triggers exacerbate your asthma symptoms—and how to reduce exposure to those triggers—is an essential part of asthma control. Common asthma triggers include:

  • Indoor allergens, like dust mites, pet dander or mold
  • Outdoor allergens like pollen and irritants like air pollution or extremely cold temperatures
  • Smoke from cigarettes or burning wood
  • Exercise
  • Certain medications you may be taking, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain or beta-blockers for heart disease
  • Emotional triggers, like stress and anxiety
  • Other health considerations that can affect your respiration, such as acid reflux, sleep apnea or cold or flu

Taking steps to avoid these triggers whenever possible is an essential part of asthma management. But avoiding triggers alone isn’t enough to control your asthma. It’s just as important to stay on top of your treatment regimen.

Your doctor will likely prescribe a mix of short-term relief and long-term control medications tailored to your specific needs. Short-term relief medications are typically prescribed to help manage asthma symptoms when they strike; long-term control medications help prevent future asthma attacks. Both types of medication are typically administered by inhalers. If you have severe asthma, your doctor may prescribe a medication that can be given by injection or infusion.

Your asthma action plan
It can be overwhelming to know exactly when to take which medication you’ve been prescribed. That’s where an asthma action plan comes in.

An asthma action plan is essentially a worksheet that you and your doctor fill out together. The goal is to help you manage your asthma symptoms and help prevent future asthma attacks by outlining what steps to take in any given situation.

Your personalized asthma action plan should:

  • Note your target peak flow reading (a measurement of how well your lungs are working)
  • Indicate which triggers to avoid and which symptoms signal worsening asthma
  • List which medications to use depending on how you’re feeling, along with when and how to take them
  • Identify when to seek emergency care (and who to contact)

Staying on top of asthma management
Once you have an asthma action plan put into place, it’s essential to stick with it. It may sound simple, but it’s actually easier said than done. Research has shown that up to 70 percent of people who have asthma may have trouble adhering to their treatment regimen.

You may have many reasons for not sticking with your treatment plan. It’s important to discuss any questions or concerns you have about your treatment with your doctor, who can address your individual needs and help you follow your treatment regimen.

If you’re having trouble sticking with your treatment plan, you may want to discuss the following questions with your doctor:

  • How do I properly administer my asthma medication?
  • Is there anything we can do to simplify my treatment plan or make it fit my schedule better?
  • What types of side effects should I look out for and how can I manage them?
  • Are there any steps I can take to lower the cost of my medication?
  • Is there a mail-order pharmacy I could use to fill my prescriptions more easily?
  • How long should it take to notice an improvement in my symptoms? What are next steps if I don’t?
  • Are there any other treatment options I could try?
  • Can I stop taking my medication if I start to feel better?

If you’re not comfortable discussing these types of questions and concerns with your doctor, don’t be afraid to look for a new care provider. It’s important to trust the person in charge of your care and to establish a relationship where you feel comfortable discussing your health.

Treatment changes over time
Initially, your treatment plan will focus on getting asthma symptoms under control. Once you feel like you’re gaining good control of your symptoms, your doctor may adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

Over time, your treatment needs may change, so it’s important to attend regular checkups to see how well your plan is working, and to optimize if needed. The goal is to eventually get you taking as little medication as possible while maintaining control of your condition—but it’s essential to do so under the guidance of your doctor.

It’s important to remember that you should never adjust your treatment plan on your own without consulting your doctor. Even if you start to feel better, it’s essential to continue taking your long-term control medication to keep asthma symptoms at bay.

The risks of uncontrolled asthma
If your asthma goes untreated or improperly managed, in can result in a number of complications. Severe asthma flare ups may require hospitalization, and over time, untreated asthma can cause permanent damage to your lungs. As a result, the medications used to treat asthma may not work as well. You may also experience a reduced ability to move oxygen in and out of your airways. In children, uncontrolled asthma may result in reduced lung growth.

Although this type of damage is serious, it is preventable. Sticking with your asthma treatment plan can keep your asthma under control and help prevent the risk of permanent damage to your airways.

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

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