As is true for any chronic condition, staying on track can be tricky. It can be a special problem for people with asthma, because symptoms can disappear for a time and then suddenly emerge. Sometimes, it is the undetectable changes, noted with a peak flow meter, that signal that your asthma is getting worse. The goal is to optimize control of inflammation before you have symptoms.
If you have asthma, staying on track means monitoring your peak flow readings, your symptoms and the triggers that make your asthma worse, and taking your drugs. It sounds more complicated than it is.
One way to simplify matters is to create a personal asthma management plan. Here are the general components for any personal plan:
- Know when to take your drugs and how much to take.
- Know your personal peak flow measurements and zones (green, yellow and red), which tell you how good or bad your airflow is. You should be aware of which symptoms tell you a flare-up is coming.
- Know what to do during a flare-up, and know when to call your health care provider for help. Often, your health care provider will give careful instructions as to which inhaler to use and how much to increase the dose according to your symptoms and your peak flow zone. In addition, some people are instructed to automatically increase their doses whenever they get a cold or sinus infection.
- Know the danger signs of asthma, and know when you should call an ambulance.
Such plans aren't set in stone. In fact, you and your health care provider should take a look at yours every so often and adjust it if needed. If your symptoms seem to occur more often than they used to, or if they are more severe than they've been in the past, it might be time to adjust your plan. Or a change might be in order if you realize you don't need your reliever as often as you used to.
The most important thing to remember is not to be fooled by feeling good. It's so easy to slack off on taking your drugs when you aren't having breathing problems. People who lose control of their asthma often have stopped using their daily inhaler because they feel good or have stopped checking their peak flows so they didn't have an early warning that their asthma was getting worse. Easy breathing, though, means that you are doing the right things to keep the lid on inflammation in your lungs. It should be a signal to keep doing what you are doing. Your reward will be continued better breathing.
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