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Six Smart Steps to Control Your Asthma

If you're among one of the twenty million Americans who suffer from asthma, you know how it can affect the quality of your life. Whether you have a mild form that causes throat irritation or a cough, or a more serious condition that can cause shortness of breath, or worse, fatal damage to your lungs, asthma should be taken seriously and medically treated.

The good news is that asthma can be controlled, if treated regularly. Most asthma medications are easy to take, have only minor side-effects, and are effective. With treatment, most people with asthma can lead normal, healthy lives.

Defining Asthma

What exactly is asthma? Asthma is a lung condition caused by the swelling of the lining of the airways in your lungs. When your airways are exposed to irritants or allergens:

  • They become swollen and produce excess mucus (phlegm).
  • The tiny muscles in the walls of the airways contract.
  • This makes the airways smaller.
  • Since it is harder to move air in and out, it is harder to breathe, and you may cough or wheeze—these are symptoms of these narrowed airways, not the cause.

With your doctor's help, you can control your asthma and become free of symptoms most of the time. But asthma does not go away when your symptoms go away. You need to keep taking care of your asthma even when your breathing feels normal.

What are some of the asthma self-care measures you can take?

Six Smart Steps for Managing Your Asthma

It's important to do what you can to get back to health as quickly as possible. Even with a chronic condition like asthma, you can breathe trouble-free with a little daily effort. Here are some simple and easy steps you can take to help you manage asthma with minimal interruption to your day.

  1. Know your triggers. Learn the triggers that bring on an attack for you. It's different for everybody. Once you know your own triggers, you can take steps to reduce or eliminate them from your daily life. Some common ones include:

    • Exercise
    • Allergies – especially to pets, pollen, and food
    • Cigarette smoke
    • Perfume
    • Cold air
    • Pollution or particles in the air, such as paints, cleaners, or dust
    • Some medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
    • Sulfites (a preservative found in processed foods and wine)
    • Viral infections, such as a cold or the flu
  2. Know how to use your inhaler properly. There are many different kinds of inhalers. Be sure you know how to use your inhaler correctly. Consult with your doctor for the best inhaler for you, as well as its proper use.

  3. Know your rescue medications. Make sure you know how and when to use a fast-acting "rescue" inhaler, such as albuterol.

  4. Know your controller medications. Make sure you know how and when to use a "controller" medication, such as an inhaled steroid or a long-acting bronchodilator. Take controller medications even when your breathing is normal. Remember that controller medications do not treat a severe attack.

  5. Know what to do during an asthma attack. Keep calm. Breathe slowly. Sit up. Use your rescue inhalers as directed. Know how to get emergency help if you need it.

  6. Keep a written Asthma Action Plan. Learn from your doctor how to monitor your asthma. Many doctors recommend using a simple device called a Peak Flow Meter to measure your breathing at home. Learn how to recognize when your breathing is impaired and how to treat yourself to prevent it from getting worse.

Work with your doctor and commit to taking these smart steps on a daily basis. If you do, you can manage your asthma and breathe easier for a healthy, happy and long life.

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