How you can take control of asthma

If you want to take control of your asthma, knowledge is power. Here's what you need to know:

Know how well your asthma is controlled. Ask yourself the questions from "Is your asthma out of control" (the previous section of this article). If you answer "yes" to any of the questions, you may need to make changes to your lifestyle or your medications to make sure you're in control of your asthma. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your asthma action plan. For more on asthma action plans, see "Your asthma action plan" (the next section of this article).

Know your triggers. Triggers are things that make your asthma worse, such as cold air, cigarette smoke, or pets. Every person with asthma has a unique set of triggers. Find out what yours are! Then talk to your doctor or pharmacist about ways to avoid them.

Know your medications. Your asthma medication won't work if it's not used properly. Be sure you know:

  • the name of the medication and what it is for
  • whether the medication is a "controller" (a medication used regularly to keep asthma under control) or a "reliever" (a medication used for quick relief of asthma symptoms)
  • how much to take, and when to take it
  • how to use the medication device (such as inhalers or spacers)
  • what side effects to expect and when to contact your doctor

If you're not sure about any of these things, talk to your pharmacist or doctor. Even if you think you're using the medication properly, it's a good idea to ask your pharmacist to check your technique (the way you use a medication device such as an asthma inhaler) when you have the medication refilled.

Know what to do if your asthma gets worse. While out shopping, you start coughing, wheezing, and feeling short of breath. Should you take more of your reliever medication? Call your doctor? Call 9-1-1? If you're not sure, then you need an asthma action plan. This plan will give you personalized instructions on what to do when your asthma acts up, including how to adjust your medication doses and when to seek medical help.

Having an action plan can help you feel more in control of your asthma, improve your lung function, and reduce your risk of ending up in the hospital or emergency room. If you don't have an action plan, talk to your doctor. For more information on asthma action plans, see "Your asthma action plan" (the next section of this article).

If you're having trouble keeping your asthma under control, talk to your doctor. Uncontrolled asthma can not only lead to missed school, work, and social activities, but if severe, it can lead to hospitalization and even death. Take action today and get your asthma under control!

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