Asthma: tips for managing the disease on a daily basis
Published May 2, 2023 • By Candice Salomé
Asthma is a chronic disease of the bronchial tubes, the first manifestations of which most often occur in childhood.
Asthma affects around 25 million people in the United States and is responsible for more than 1,8 million emergency visits each year. If not properly controlled, it can have serious repercussions on the well-being and quality of life of patients.
So what is asthma? How can you manage it on a daily basis? How can you improve your quality of life with asthma?
Here is what we advise!
What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that is caused by permanent inflammation of the bronchial tubes.
Asthma manifests itself by attacks, the symptoms of which include breathlessness, wheezing, dry cough or tightness in the chest. These attacks can last from several minutes to several hours. Afterwards, breathing returns to normal.
During breathing, the air flows through the bronchial tubes into the lungs. In people with asthma, the inner lining of these ducts (called the bronchial mucosa) is thickened and irritated. This chronic inflammation makes the bronchial tubes sensitive and prone to overreaction in the presence of contributing factors, which can thus trigger an asthma attack, because the passage of air through the bronchial tubes has become difficult: the muscles around the bronchial tubes contract, and a significant amount of mucus is secreted.
The intensity and frequency of asthma attacks vary from person to person.
How can you manage your asthma?
Asthma treatment can sometimes be time-consuming. It is nevertheless important to follow your doctor's prescription methodically. Good compliance with your treatment plan is key to limiting bronchial inflammation.
Good asthma management starts with a few simple tips that can be easily applied in everyday life.
Adhere to your treatment plan
There are several medications available to treat asthma, which can often be grouped into two categories: long-term control medications (controllers) and quick-acting relief medications (relievers). Most asthma patients use both types.
Controllers are used to prevent asthma symptoms. They act on the airways to keep them clear so that there is no mucus or inflammation. It is important to take your controller medication properly to avoid having vulnerable bronchi and lungs that are susceptible to asthma triggers.
Relievers should be used in the case of a crisis (after a overly intensive exercise or when breathing suddenly becomes difficult). The rescue inhaler should always be kept at hand for emergencies.
Measure your respiratory flow
With a peak flow meter, it is possible to regularly check your expiratory flow. These measurements are an indicator of the treatment effectiveness and can helps predict an attack. In addition, counting the number of times you use your inhaler helps you monitor the evolution of your condition. This is the information you should regularly share with your doctor.
Know what triggers your asthma
The lungs of people with asthma are more sensitive than the lungs of other people to certain triggers that can destabilize the disease and provoke the onset of symptoms.
The most common triggers include:
- Unsuitable exercise,
- Sudden changes in temperature,
- Tobacco smoke,
- Strong odors and irritants,
- Air pollution,
- Colds and respiratory infections.
It is essential to identify your own triggers and take steps to avoid them. By eliminating your triggers, you can better control the disease.
When it comes to physical activities, don't hesitate to ask your doctor for advice. He or she may recommend that you take your relief medication before exercising, in order to prevent the symptoms from occurring. It is also recommended that you do not exercise outdoors in cold weather or during pollution peaks.
Organize your living space
Some triggers can be found within homes, and are thus preventable. You should:
- Air all rooms, outside of pollution peaks, for at least 20 minutes a day, ideally in the morning and in the evening.
- Make sure that your home is not subject to humidity.
- Avoid dust by using a damp cloth and a hoover with a HEPA filter (high efficiency on airborne particles).
- Avoid carpets, double curtains, fabric sofas, etc.
- Do not use aerosol products.
- Clean the air vents every 3 months.
- Have the boiler checked once a year.
- Avoid pets at home. If you have pets, keep them out of the room and wash them regularly.
- If you buy new furniture, it is advisable to assemble it outside, if possible, and then air it out. If it is made of chipboard, it gives off irritating VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
See your doctor regularly
The aim of asthma treatment is to control the disease, which means no breathing difficulties and no activity limitations.
There are several clinical criteria to assess whether asthma is well controlled:
- The presence of symptoms during the day (dry cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest, etc.) and their frequency (does it happen more often than twice a week?),
- The presence of night-time awakenings related to asthma,
- The impact of asthma on daily life,
- The use of relief treatments (more than twice a week?).
Then, the interpretation of the results makes it possible to assess whether your asthma is:
- "Well controlled": if none of these criteria are present,
- "Partially controlled": if 1 or 2 criteria are present,
- "Uncontrolled": if 3 or 4 of these criteria are present.
As asthma is a condition where the onset of symptoms is variable over time and sometimes unpredictable, it is essential to have regular doctor's appointments and to monitor your symptoms yourself in between your appointments.
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