For anyone who’s felt panicked for air, we understand your fright: Airway constriction can make you feel out of control. Some 25 million Americans have the chronic condition asthma,1 which can bring on breathing instability and uncertainty. But with a proactive plan in place, you don’t have to fall into fear.
“Since asthma attacks can be dangerous, it’s important to keep symptoms in both kids and adults under control,” explains Dr. Jennifer Carter, lead physician case manager at Teladoc.
It’s true: Asthma can be well-managed. There’s no reason for wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing to become constant symptoms that hold you back from enjoying life. As spring blooms, we’re here with tips for controlling your asthma so you don’t have to miss one picnic in the park.
While asthma is a condition you have all the time, asthma attacks come on when something bothers your lungs. As sides of the airways swell, the airway itself shrinks, causing breathing trouble. The condition may be genetic or brought on by the environment; triggers like pollen, animal dander, smoke, a chest cold, or air pollution can cause symptoms to take hold.
It’s important to notice the causes that are consistent when symptoms like wheezing and breathlessness arise. “Knowing what the triggers are and avoiding them is key to helping prevent attacks,” says Kyon Hood, MD, FAAP, president of Teladoc Physicians, P.A.
For example, you might notice an asthma flare-up when spending time in a dusty old attic (dust mites) or in a damp musty basement (mold spores). If asthma flares up only at work, you could be exposed to a chemical, other irritant, or mold that’s making you feel badly just while in that location. In the springtime, you may notice a surge in symptoms when you open the windows to let all that fresh air in. (Guess what: pollen is getting in, too!)
By discussing your flare-ups and history with a Teladoc physician, you can come up with a plan to minimize the impact of these triggers. By being better prepared, you’ll take control of your asthma so it doesn’t seem like it’s taking control of you.
If your asthma symptoms are brought on by certain allergens or seasons, it’s best to manage the air temperature with a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system rather than open windows and fans. It’s also wise to spend as much time indoors as possible when allergen counts are high; if you must go outside, change clothing and bathe when you get back inside. It also makes sense to stay on top of vaccinations, especially the flu shot, to protect the lungs.
A physician can help by prescribing a regular medication—or combination of medications—to keep asthma symptoms under control. These include the long-term use of oral meds and nebulizers or inhalers that use mist; others, like immunotherapy shots, target allergy-induced symptoms. It’s important to work with a doctor to understand your regimen and follow it closely. Rescue inhalers should only be used for quick, short-term relief to prevent or treat an asthma attack. These should not be taken daily as maintenance medications. Talk to a doctor about side effects and benefits of each option. Your doctor may also recommend a peak flow meter so you can detect asthma symptoms even before they begin.
By establishing a plan to control symptoms, you’ll be able to go to work and school without discomfort, comfortably exercise, and sleep through the night without coughing or feeling short of breath. The goal is not just to avoid hospital trips, but to take part in regular life activities with ease.
Our U.S. board-certified physicians are available to assess your asthma symptoms and work with you on a maintenance plan. From the comfort of your own home, come up with strategies for dealing with triggers, managing medications, and handling emergencies by requesting a visit. Remember, a proactive approach to asthma management will allow you to stay in control and breathe easier.
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