Living with Asthma
By David Drinkall
If you have asthma, managing it is an important part of your life. Controlling your asthma means staying away from things that bother your airways and taking medicines as directed by your doctor. If you have asthma, it is important to learn how to take care of yourself.
MAKE AN ACTION PLAN WITH YOUR DOCTOR
It is important that you work with your doctor to make an action plan that you are both happy with. As part of this, you will need to:
*Tell your doctor about all other medications and drugs you are taking, in case one of them affects your asthma.
*Follow your asthma action plan and have regular checkups.
*Learn to use your medication correctly. Ask your doctor to teach you how to use your inhaler. This is very important. If inhalers are not used correctly, less medication gets into the airways.
*If you are having problems taking your asthma medicine, seek your doctor's advice immediately.
IDENTIFY YOUR ASTHMA TRIGGERS
You also need to learn to identify and avoid the things that can worsen or trigger your asthma symptoms.
*If animal dander is a problem for you, keep your pet out of the house and/or at least out of your bedroom and wash your pet often - or even find it a new home.
*Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home.
*If pollen is a problem for you, stay indoors with the air conditioner on when the pollen count is high.
*To control dust mites, wash your sheets, blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys once a week in hot water. You can get special dust proof covers for your mattress and pillows.
*To prevent colds and flu, wash your hands often and get a flu shot every year. Children with asthma should get flu shots, too.
*If cold air bothers you, wear a scarf over your mouth and nose in the winter.
*If you get asthma when you exercise or do routine physical activities like climbing stairs, work with your doctor to find ways to be active without having asthma symptoms. Physical activity is important.
*If you are allergic to sulphites, avoid foods (like dried fruit) or beverages (like wine) that contain them. For example, sodium metabisulphite (E220"227) may also trigger asthma, but not via an allergic reaction. It can be found in wine, home-brewed beer, fizzy drinks, prepared meats and prepared salads.
*Do not allow smoking indoors unless there is a room reserved for smokers and which has a separate ventilation system to exhaust smoke outside. Never allow smoking around anyone with asthma.
*Try to keep humidity levels in the home between 30 and 50 percent. High humidity can promote growth of biological agents that may trigger asthma episodes. Use exhaust fans or open windows in the kitchen or bathroom areas when cooking, using the dishwasher, or taking showers. Make sure clothes dryers are vented to the outdoors, and use a dehumidifier in the basement if necessary.
*Avoid using humidifiers. If it cannot be avoided, clean it according to the manufacturer's instructions. Refill it daily with fresh water to prevent the growth of harmful microbes.
*Minimize exposure to combustion particles and gases that can cause breathing difficulties for people with asthma. Have combustion-powered furnaces, stoves, or heaters checked yearly to make sure they are operating properly. Change furnace filters according to the manufacturer's instructions, or every month or two during periods of use. Consider installing higher efficiency filters to reduce the number of particles in the air. Never use a gas stove to heat the home, and always use the exhaust fan when cooking on a gas stove.
*Avoid sprays like deodorants, perfumes, or air fresheners, odours from paint, and strong smelling cleaners may start a child's asthma attack.
*Keep the house clean to reduce allergens like microscopic dust mites, pollen, and animal dander. Use an allergen-proof comforter and encase mattresses and box springs in vinyl covers. Wash bedding frequently in hot (130"F) water. Avoid furnishings that collect dust.
MONITOR YOUR ASTHMA
If your asthma is not under control, there will be signs that you should not ignore. The following are some signs that your asthma is getting worse:
*Your asthma symptoms happen more often.
*Your asthma symptoms are worse than they used to be.
*Your asthma symptoms are bothering you a lot at night and making you lose sleep.
*You are missing school or work because of your asthma.
*Your peak flow number is low or varies a lot from morning to evening.
*Your asthma medications do not seem to be working very well anymore.
*You have to use your short-acting "quick relief" or "rescue" inhaler more often. (Using quick relief medicine every day, or using more than one inhaler a month is too much)
*You have to go to the emergency room or doctor because of an asthma attack.
*You end up in the hospital because of your asthma.
If your asthma seems to be getting worse, see your doctor. You may need to change your medication or take other actions to get your asthma under control.