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During an asthma attack, the airways
swell and narrow. This makes it hard to breathe. Asthma is a lifelong problem,
but it does not have to limit you. If you take charge of your asthma, you can
lead a full and active life.
You and your doctor will make an
asthma action plan that outlines the two approaches to
taking charge of asthma:
Using the asthma action plan also helps you keep track of
your asthma and know how well your treatment is working.
If you or
your child has been recently diagnosed, it may seem like there is a lot to
remember. But the things you need to do to take charge of your asthma are
really quite simple. With some practice, they will become part of your normal
There are a few tools you can use to keep track of your asthma and know
how well your treatment is working. Keeping track of your asthma lets you act
quickly to stop an attack before it becomes an emergency. Your doctor and
asthma educator can help you make the plans and learn the skills you need.
An asthma action plan tells you what controller medicine to take
every day and when to take it. Controller medicine is usually an inhaled
corticosteroid. Taking your controller medicine every
day helps reduce the swelling of your airways and prevent attacks. The plan
also tells you how to know when your asthma is not in control, how to change
your treatment to prevent an attack, and what to do if you have an
attack. Your action plan may also include:
You and your doctor will work together to create your
asthma action plan(What is a PDF document?). An action plan has zones that are based on your peak flow
Your doctor can teach you the skills you need to
use your asthma action plan. These include:
It is very important to know how to use a peak flow
Knowing how to use a peak flow meter is very
important. A peak flow meter measures how open your airways are. A drop in peak
flow can show that the airways have narrowed even before you have symptoms.
This can let you treat an asthma attack early, before it becomes severe.
Continue to Why?
If you have ever felt that asthma controls your life, the benefits of
taking an active role in your treatment can be great.
Taking charge of asthma has only short-term
Taking charge of your asthma has both
short-term and long-term benefits. In the short term, it can help you have
fewer and less severe attacks. In the long term, it helps keep your lungs as
healthy as possible and allows you to have a high quality of life.
Continue to How?
Each time you measure your peak flow, check your action plan to see what
zone you are in. If your peak flow drops below 80% of your
personal best measurement, follow your action plan. To
figure out what 80% of your personal best measurement is, multiply your
personal best measurement by 0.80. For example, if your personal best peak flow
is 400, then 80% of that is 400 times 0.80, which is 320. To figure what 50% of
your personal best peak flow is, multiply your personal best measurement by
Keep your regular follow-up appointments. During
checkups, your doctor will ask if your symptoms and peak flow have held steady,
improved, or gotten worse. He or she will also ask if you have asthma attacks
during exercise or at night. Your doctor may want to see how you use your peak
flow meter and inhaler. This information can help your doctor know if your
asthma category has changed or if you need to change
medicines or doses.
When you go to your doctor:
If you are following your action plan and using your
treatment, you don't need to see your doctor for follow-up appointments.
Even if you are doing everything you should,
you still need to see your doctor on a regular schedule. Your doctor can make
sure you are getting the treatment you need to control your asthma and limit
the damage to your lungs.
Continue to Where?
If you have questions, take
this information with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to mark
areas or make notes in the margins where you have questions.
If you would like more information on asthma, the
following resources are available:
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
publishes an excellent series of pamphlets on allergies, asthma, and related
information. It also provides physician referrals.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)
provides information and support for people who have allergies or asthma. The
AAFA has local chapters and support groups. And its Web site has online
resources, such as fact sheets, brochures, and newsletters, both free and for
Now that you have read this
information, you are ready to take charge of your asthma treatment. For related
Return to topic:
February 13, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
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