7 Mistakes That Sabotage Asthma Control

Are you struggling to keep asthma symptoms under control? Check out these seven potential culprits.

Medically reviewed in August 2021

Uncontrolled asthma can lead to emergency room visits, hospitalizations and even premature death, according to allergist Myron Zitt, MD, past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI).

If you have asthma, it is critical that you take your medication as directed, see your pulmonologist regularly and avoid allergy triggers to ensure you don't struggle to breathe. Here are some common missteps to avoid:

Not taking your symptoms seriously
If you have symptoms more than two days a week that cause you to reach for your fast-acting relief inhaler—or find yourself waking up at night wheezing—see your doctor to discuss other asthma control options, such as inhaled corticosteroids, which may help address the airway inflammation that occurs with asthma.

Ignoring allergies
Allergens are an asthma trigger for many people, and Zitt recommends undergoing allergy testing to learn what sparks a reaction and gain guidance in avoiding these allergenic triggers.

Not using your medication preventatively
Patients who are prescribed a daily medication for asthma must take their medication every day. Yet when symptoms appear to be under control, some patients may skip doses or forget doses. Unfortunately, non-adherence to a treatment plan can lead to poorly controlled symptoms. Zitt stresses that it's always best to take your medicine regularly to prevent attacks rather than waiting until your symptoms hit and then trying to deal with them.

Not using your inhaler properly
Many asthma patients do not administer the medication from their inhalers properly, which means they aren't getting the full benefits of the medicine, Zitt admits. "Using inhaled medication requires instruction and practice to learn how to get it into the lower airways," he explains. Your doctor or pharmacist can review the technique with you. If you can't get the timing right, inquire about using an inexpensive device called a spacer, which may make the process easier to coordinate.

Not having a current asthma action plan in place
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines indicate that doctors should give each patient with asthma an individualized written plan. The plan should spell out the patient's triggers, his or her control medications and dosage, the warning signs that an attack is impending and detailed directions on how to respond, such as increasing inhaler frequency, using a nebulizer or taking an oral steroid.

Not taking care of your health
Part of controlling asthma is staying healthy. Take precautions to avoid getting sick. Get your annual flu shot as well as a pneumococcal vaccine, wash your hands frequently and steer clear of germy places. If you do become ill, you'll need to be on the lookout for asthma symptoms and respond by increasing your asthma medicines according to your asthma action plan.

Not working with your healthcare provider
Understanding asthma and working as a team with your healthcare providers is vital to managing asthma. The good news is that with proper planning and communication, asthma can be managed.

Featured Content


5 Weird Warnings of an Asthma Attack

Some of the clues are a little surprising, but if you know what to look for, you'll be better prepared for your next attack


How to Work Out When You Have Asthma

Why it's time to come up with an asthma-friendly exercise plan.

Your Respiratory System and Asthma

An asthma patient’s guide to how the respiratory system works, with tips on keeping asthma under control.

6 Important Questions About Asthma

What happens during an asthma attack and what does it feel like? Here’s what you should know.

Anatomy of an Asthma Attack

A pulmonologist explains what’s happening in the airways during an asthma attack, and what you can do about it.