How can I control my asthma?

Your doctor may prescribe medication to help you prevent asthma attacks. Typically this is an inhaled corticosteroid, or a daily inhaler.

The key to preventing asthma attacks is staying healthy and taking the right treatments. It's also important to know your asthma triggers and to avoid them. It's impossible to avoid all triggers, but your asthma team will help you work out ways to manage them. Keeping fit and being a healthy weight can help to control your asthma. Exercise can be a trigger for asthma too. You might have to take your reliever inhaler before you exercise. It's really important not to smoke. Smoking causes lots of health problems and is really bad for your lungs.

Niamh van Meines
Nursing Specialist

Usually when your asthma is controlled you have few symptoms, your asthma does not impact your ability to perform day-to-day activities and you do not need to take extra doses of inhalers to manage wheezing. When your asthma is under control this does not mean that you should stop taking the medications that are controlling the asthma. Discussing the usage and doses of medications to control your asthma with your doctor is the best way to ensure your asthma stays under control.

Dr. Brian D. Gelbman, MD
Pulmonary Disease Specialist

There are two ways to measure if asthma is under control: the number of symptoms a patient has, and the measurement of airflow limitation. Watch as pulmonologist Brian Gelbman, MD, discusses how to know if your asthma is being controlled properly.

Dr. Donna Bond, DNP
Nursing Specialist

Your asthma is considered under control if you use your rescue (short acting) inhaler less than 2 times a week, you wake up with asthma symptoms less than 2 times in a month and you need a refill on your rescue inhaler one time or less a year.

Dr. Diana K. Blythe, MD

Well controlled asthma is when you have symptoms of asthma less than twice weekly, you are able to exercise, be active and are not woken from sleep for coughing fits. In addition, you need to take your rescue asthma medicine (albuterol or Xopenex) less than twice weekly. 

Scientists aren't exactly sure why asthma rates are on the rise, but it is clear that this disease must be managed properly. In this video, integrative medicine specialist Dr. Robin Miller explains how to care for yourself if you have asthma.

Controlling asthma really depends on how severe your asthma is, among other factors. The best and most efficient way to protect yourself from what triggers your asthma is to identify your triggers and avoid them as much as possible. The most common triggers for asthma sufferers include tobacco smoke, pet dander, viral illnesses and seasonal allergies. The first thing is to stop smoking and have all family members counseled on the benefits of smoking cessation. Then, gradually work to identify as many of your individual triggers as possible and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

Nonpharmaceutical things you can do to control asthma may include warming up before exercising (which is especially effective for exercise-induced asthma), avoiding allergic triggers, having certain pets live with another relative, taking allergy medicine during peak allergy season, treating colds and wearing a scarf or face mask over your nose and mouth if it's really cold outside. Often, though, asthma requires medications for better control. Different classes of medications may be used, but inhaled corticosteroids are a common and effective class of drugs that your doctor may prescribe.

The best strategy is to avoid airborne irritants whenever possible.

  • Get rid of your swamp cooler—use central air conditioning. If this isn’t possible, at least use an air conditioner in your bedroom.
  • Watch the news for pollution alerts (high ozone days), and be ready to step up your treatment if necessary.
  • If you smoke, quit. Ask family members to quit smoking, too.
  • Don’t allow smoking in your home.
  • Be sure no one smokes at your child’s daycare center.
  • Don’t use wood burning stoves, fireplaces or kerosene heaters to heat your home.
  • Avoid perfumes and perfumed products such as talcum powder, candles and hairspray.
  • Reduce strong cooking odors by using an exhaust fan and opening windows when you cook.
  • Don’t stay in your home, school or worksite if it’s being painted.
  • If gas fumes irritate your airways, have someone elsepump your gas for you.
  • If you can’t get rid of irritants in the ways described above, use an indoor air-cleaning device. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) purifier is a good one to try.
Dr. Lawrence T. Chiaramonte, MD
Allergist & Immunologist

Because early-phase inflammatory mediators like histamine are present in both upper airway allergy and asthma, modern antihistamines administered in dosages that are appropriate for allergic rhinitis may help stave off your child's subsequent asthma attacks or diminish their severity. An antihistamine like cetirizine (marketed under the brand name Zyrtec) and other so-called second-generation antihistamines such as Claritin or Allegra, may reduce the dosages required for rescue doses of the bronchodilator albuterol for your child.

Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide

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Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide

Asthma and allergies are at epidemic proportions. It doesn't have to be that way. Two experienced pediatric allergists tell everything a conscientious parent needs to know about these conditions,...

If your asthma is caused by allergies, creating some distance between you and your allergy triggers will help you keep your symptoms under control. The first step is to know what you are allergic to and whether those allergens are triggering your asthma.

Asthma management isn't just about avoiding your triggers, however. Everything from your diet, exercise and sleep habits—as well as your stress levels and weight—can affect your asthma symptoms. To get the most complete picture of your asthma, here are some things you should track:

  • What you're feeling: Note the date and time when symptoms strike. Write down what you feel—coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
  • Where you went and what you did: Jot down where you were and what you were doing when symptoms flared. Make a note of any triggers you might have been exposed to.
  • What you're taking: Keep track of how often you use your long-term control and rescue medications; and note the dose.
  • If you use a peak flow meter, include your readings in your symptoms diary. (If you dont, ask your doctor whether it would be beneficial to your treatment.)

Although asthma is a long-term health condition, that doesn't mean you're always going to need the same treatment for it. Over time, your asthma may get better or worse and your medication needs may increase or decrease. That's why it's so important that you keep close tabs on your symptoms and see your doctor regularly so that proper adjustments can be made to your treatment plan when needed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.