Asthma affects an estimated one in 12 Americans. It is a chronic lung disease where the airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus making it tough to breath. Other common symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
While asthma has no cure, it can be effectively managed.
Working closely with an asthma specialist can provide guidance on taking medicines properly, avoiding asthma triggers, tracking level of asthma control, responding to worsening symptoms, and seeking emergency care when needed. In short, it means staying on top of your asthma. This includes, for example, using a peak flow meter, which will show if your asthma is getting worse, even before you start to feel symptoms.
Here are suggestions on preventive actions that can be taken:
- Pay attention to pollen counts and stay indoors when they are very high. High pollen count days tend to be warm and windy (with lowest pollen count days when it rains).
- Keep the windows closed and the air conditioning on when you’re in the house or car. This will keep the pollen from coming inside.
- Regularly vacuum and dust flat surfaces in the house. Pollen collects in dust, so cleaning will keep levels down indoors.
- Wash the pollen off when you return home. It might seem like overkill, but it’s a good idea to shower and change your clothes when you return home.
- Use your medication preventively, rather than waiting for symptoms to appear. This begins by talking with your physician and developing an action plan. Asthma is treated with two types of medicines: long-term control and quick-relief medicines. Long-term control medicines help reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms. Quick-relief, or “rescue” medicines relieve asthma symptoms that may flare up. This may mean, for example, using an inhaled corticosteroid every day and an inhaled long-acting beta2-agonist as soon as symptoms begin to appear. It may also mean using an over-the-counter antihistamine, perhaps in combination with a decongestant to relieve nasal congestion.
Bottom line is if you have asthma don’t simply “grin and bear it” or wrap yourself in a bubble to avoid contact with allergens that trigger asthma symptoms. Take advantage of a preventive plan that will help you enjoy life while managing your symptoms.