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Staying active, connecting with friends and enjoying the outdoors is important for your whole health. But if you’re one of 25 million people in the U.S. who have asthma, certain activities may put you at risk of an asthma attack. Fortunately, learning how to better manage your symptoms can empower you to experience your favorite activities and boost your complete well-being.
Take control of your asthma – instead of letting it control you – with five simple steps.
Identify Your Triggers
Knowing what factors cause your symptoms is the first step in getting your asthma under control. These can vary depending on the type of asthma you have, but may include:
- Environmental irritants, such as pollen, pet dander, mold or ragweed
- Exposure to chemicals, fungi, animal dander or dust during work
- Food allergies
- Strenuous physical activity
Create Your Asthma Action Plan
Developing an asthma action plan is one of the most important ways to monitor and control your symptoms. You and your doctor will create a personalized plan that will help you respond to future asthma attacks. Your action plan will outline:
- Daily treatments or medications
- How to control worsening symptoms
- How to respond to short-term and long-term symptoms
- What to do in the case of an emergency
- When you should call your doctor
- When urgent care or emergency care is appropriate
Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
Small adjustments to your daily activity can make a difference when it comes to controlling your asthma. Talk to your doctor about how you can safely and healthfully make positive changes. Your doctor may discuss exercising, proper nutrition, managing stress and avoiding triggers.
Be Mindful of Triggers
Avoiding triggers as much as possible will also limit your symptoms. Stay away from smoky places and high-pollution areas. Take steps to avoid breathing in chemicals, dust, mold and other substances that might cause an asthma attack.
Get Regular Physical Activity
Exercising regularly will help strengthen your lungs and protect you against future symptoms. Make sure you discuss different strategies with your doctor to avoid triggering your existing condition.
Manage Your Stress
Controlling stress will also help you monitor your symptoms. Worrying about where and when you’ll have the next attack won’t help you stay calm if something does happen. While you can’t predict everything, preparing for these events will give you the confidence you need in an emergency.
Strive for Proper Nutrition
Eating right — and incorporating plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean proteins into your meals — is important for a number of health reasons. But if you have asthma, there are added benefits. Remember that certain preservatives in food can cause asthma flare-ups.
Discuss Medical Treatment With Your Doctor
Your doctor will likely prescribe some medications to help you.
An inhaler is the most common way to prevent and treat asthma attacks. Inhalers allow you to breathe the medication directly into your lungs. Doctors prescribe two kinds of treatments – short-term medications and long-term medications.
Short-term medications can be used to help control symptom flare-ups. They work by quickly relaxing your airways and allowing air to flow freely into your lungs.
While short-term inhalers can help during an emergency, they can’t actually reduce the inflammation that causes asthma and shouldn’t be used as a long-term solution.
Long-term medications ease inflammation in your lungs. Although they don’t offer quick relief of symptoms they can prevent symptoms altogether when you use them regularly. Some examples of these medications include:
- Anti-inflammatory medicine like Cromolyn, which is given through an inhaler device called a nebulizer
- Immunomodulators, or injections that can be given once or twice a month to relieve allergies
- Inhaled corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation and swelling in your airways
Learning how to use these medications can be a little tricky at first, so make sure your doctor shows you how to use the inhaler correctly.
Be Proactive, Schedule Routine Checkups
Taking steps to stay proactive, such as making small lifestyle changes and keeping up your routine checkups, can make a huge difference in your well-being. Preparing yourself to handle the obstacles asthma can bring is the key to staying happy and healthy. Keep your peace of mind by communicating openly with your doctor to create a plan of action.