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Managing Asthma
Disclaimer:

This information provides a general overview on this topic and may not apply to everyone. The information is NOT a substitute for you visiting your doctor. However, as Medical Science is constantly changing and human error is always possible, the authors, editors, and publisher of this information do not warrant the accuracy or completeness of this information nor are they responsible for omissions or errors as a result of using this information.

Managing Asthma Symptoms

What is asthma?
Asthma is a medical condition affecting the lungs. The airways of people with asthma are extra sensitive to the things they're allergic to (called allergens) and to other irritating things in the air (called irritants).

Asthma symptoms start when allergens or other irritants cause the lining of the airways to swell (become inflamed) and narrow. The muscles around the airways can then spasm, (contract rapidly), causing the airways to narrow even more. When the lining of the airways is inflamed, it produces more mucus. The mucus clogs the airways and further blocks the flow of air. This is called an "asthma attack."

How do I control my asthma symptoms?
Treatment of your symptoms involves avoiding things that cause asthma attacks, keeping track of your symptoms and taking medicine.

How can I avoid allergens and irritants?
If pollen and mold cause your symptoms, use your air-conditioner and try to keep the windows of your home and car closed. Change the filter on your heating and cooling system frequently.
To keep mold down, clean and air out bathrooms, kitchens and basements often. Keep the level of humidity under 50%. You can do this with an air conditioner or a dehumidifier.
People who are allergic to dust are actually allergic to the droppings of dust mites. To reduce dust mites in your home, wash bedsheets weekly in hot water (above 130F). Cover mattresses and pillows in airtight covers and remove carpets and drapes. If you must have carpet, you can treat it with chemicals to help reduce dust mites. Try to avoid stuffed animals, dried flowers and other things that catch dust. Don't allow smoking in your house or car. Tobacco smoke can make your asthma worse.

Things that can trigger an asthma attack

Air pollution, Dust, Mold, Pollen, Tobacco smoke, Pet dander, Exercise, Changes in temperature, Heartburn, Sinus infections, Perfume, Spray-on deodorants, Viruses.

How do I use an inhaler?
Some asthma medicines are taken with a metered-dose inhaler. If in doubt, ask your doctor to show you how to use an inhaler.


What is a peak flow meter?
A peak flow meter is a hand-held device that measures your peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), or how fast you can blow air out of your lungs. Measuring your peak flow regularly can help you tell whether your asthma is getting worse.

To use a peak flow meter, you will first need to find out your "personal best" peak flow. Take a deep breath and blow as hard as you can into the mouthpiece. Your personal best is the highest reading you get on the meter over a 2-week period when your asthma is under good control.

Warning signs of an asthma attack

Peak flow less than 50% of your personal best
Coughing or wheezing
Shortness of breath
Tightness in chest


How can I tell if my asthma is getting worse?
Signs that your asthma is getting worse include having symptoms at night, a drop in your peak flow and the need to use your rescue medicine more often. Talk to your doctor if you think that your asthma is getting worse.

Get help right away if:
Your rescue medicine doesn't relieve your symptoms.
Your peak flow keeps dropping after treatment or falls below 50% of your best.
Your fingernails or lips turn gray or blue.
You have trouble walking or talking.
You have extreme difficulty breathing.
Your neck, chest or ribs are pulled in with each breath.
Your nostrils flare when you breathe.
 
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Last modified October 2015