5 Things Everyone With Asthma Needs To Know

7 Things Everyone With Asthma Needs To Know

Indian woman using inhaler in doctor's office
Getty Images/Terry Vine

Asthma is a complicated disease that requires that you understand what triggers your symptoms so that you avoid those things that make your asthma worse.

Additionally, you must monitor your disease and be able to follow a detailed action plan. The next 7 slides outline important tasks that will help you achieve good control of your asthma.

Understand the Pathophysiology of Asthma

An illustration of an airway with dark bands of muscle. These bands can tighten and lead to wheeze, cough, etc. Photo courtesy of www.superstock.com.

Many patients do not understand the pathophysiology of asthma or why their doctors prescribe different medications as part of their treatment.

When your asthma worsens, three primary changes take place in your lungs that make your airways smaller:

  • Increased Mucus Production: Mucus production leads to irritation and inflammation. Mucus clogs and narrows your airways producing more symptoms.
  • Inflammation and Swelling: Asthma triggers lead to swelling of the airways in response to whatever is causing your asthma attack.
  • Muscle Tightening: Smooth muscles tighten in response to an asthma attack and narrow the airways, making it harder to breathe.

Understanding what is going on in the lungs helps you understand why your doctor prescribes certain medicines and why you need to do certain things to get control of your asthma.

Know Your medication

Asthma Medication
Asthma Inhaler.

If you have mild intermittent asthma you may only need a rescue inhaler , but patients with more severe asthma will likely have an inhaled steroid. Using a spacer helps alleviate some of the problems you may experience related to a poor technique.

Another important factor for understanding your medication is understanding  side effects of your medications.

Monitor Your Asthma

Peak flow meter
Peak flow meter. Getty Images/TEK IMAGE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

In order to achieve good control of your asthma, it is essential that you monitor how you are doing. Tracking and recording asthma symptoms or peak flows is one way to achieve this.

“That which cannot be measured cannot be changed” is an adage often discussed in business and other complex processes. Your asthma is no different. Without monitoring your asthma symptoms you cannot make the changes need to achieve good control.

Understand Asthma Control

Coltron the Controller
Coltron the Controller. Booster Shot Comics

Nearly 3 of 4 asthmatics have nighttime awakenings at least weekly and 2 of 3 may have nighttime symptoms 3 or more times per week. Asthmatics often under appreciate these symptoms as a sign of poor asthma control.

Similarly, many patients describing their asthma as “mild” reported experiencing asthma symptoms like wheezing, chest tightness, cough, and shortness of breath nightly.

Another simple way to know your asthma is inadequately controlled is the Baylor Rule of Twos. If you use your relief inhaler more than two times per week, wake up with asthma symptoms more than 2 times per month, or refill your short acting inhaler more than two times per year, your asthma is poorly controlled.

Get an Action Plan

Asthma Action Plan. From NIH Publication No. 07-5251

Your asthma action plan or asthma management plan is a written plan that helps you care for your asthma. Developed by your doctor with your input, your asthma action plan will help you gain control of your asthma.

It tells you the dose and frequency of your controller medication, when to use your rescue medicine nased on your monitoring, and when you need to seek care. Additionally, the plan will help you avoid triggers and what to do if you will be in a situation where triggers are unavdoidable.

Pets- Don't Make These 2 Mistakes

Sleeping With Your Pet
Sleeping With Your Pet. Getty Images- victoriabee RooM

While pets are cute, cuddly, and provide companionship, allowing your pet to sleep with you can lead to poorly controlled asthma. Despite this, it is a common reason that asthma patients fail to get their asthma under good control. You spend a huge number of hours in your bedroom every year and pets transport allergens such as dust, pollen, and molds around on their bodies and on to your bed and into your bedroom. The more time a pet spends sin your bedroom or in your bed, the larger allergen exposure you will experience.

Another common pet mistake is believing that you can purchase a hypoallergenic pet. Hypoallergenic pets are a myth from my perspective. All pets shed proteins from skin flakes, urine, feces, and saliva known as dander. Dander from your pet triggers the pathophysiology of asthma. When I am asked, I usually recommend that asthma patients not get pets with fur. While often not cute and cuddly, fish, hermit crabs, snakes, and turtles do not typically worsen allergies or lead to asthma attacks.

Not Taking Medications Regularly

Woman using inhaler to treat asthma attack
Symptoms Are Not Far Behind When You Stop Your Meds. IAN HOOTON/SPL / Getty Images

In order for you to get the most benefit from your asthma medications,  you need to take them regularly. While this would seem self-evident, many asthma patients do not regularly take their medications. Some patients will begin to feel better, develop less symptoms or functional impairment, and then fail to take their controller medications regularly. Your  your asthma never really goes away despite your improved symptoms. Wheezing, chest tightness, cough and shortness of breath will not be far behind if you just stop taking your meds regularly.


  1. Sutherland ER. Nocturnal asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 Dec;116(6):1179–86.. Accessed on July 10, 2016.
  2. Baylor Health System. Rules of Two. Accessed on July 10, 2016.
  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma Accessed on July 10, 2016.

What Is Your Biggest Asthma Problem?

What's Your Biggest Asthma Problem?
What's Your Biggest Asthma Problem?. Pat Bass

We want to help you get control of your asthma. I want to hear about your biggest asthma problem so that we can try to help you develop a solution or better understand how to help.
 You are probably not the only one with the problem. Take a few minutes describing your problem so we can develop a solution together.

Learn More About Your Asthma

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