Effective asthma treatment requires regular follow-up of symptoms and measurement of how well your lungs are working. Actively managing your asthma treatment will help you better control your asthma over time, prevent asthma attacks and avoid long-term problems.
Work with your doctor to develop a written asthma treatment plan. This written plan will serve as a guide for asthma treatment tailored to your specific needs. It will help you follow these three important steps and keep good records of your asthma treatment:
1. Record your symptoms
Write down your symptoms in an asthma diary every day. Recording your symptoms will help you determine when you need to make treatment adjustments based on your asthma action plan. Use your asthma diary to record:
Shortness of breath or whistling (croup) on exhalation
Difficulty sleeping due to shortness of breath, coughing, or croup.
Chest tightness or chest pain.
Quick-acting (emergency) inhaler use, recording when you need to use a quick-acting inhaler (e.g., salbutamol (Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA, ProAir HFA) spray more often than not.
How asthma symptoms disrupt work, school, sports, or other daily activities.
Asthma symptoms that occur during exercise.
Changes in the color of the sputum you cough up.
Symptoms of hay fever, such as sneezing and a runny nose.
Any possible triggers for an asthma attack.
2. Record how your lungs are working
Your doctor may ask you to record the results of your breathing tests (pulmonary function tests) regularly. If your lungs are not working well, then your asthma may not be under control. There are two main pulmonary function tests:
Expiratory flood flow. This can be done at home with a simple handheld device called a peak expiratory flow meter. The peak expiratory flow test shows how quickly air is pushed out of the lungs. The peak flow count sometimes indicates the percentage at which the lungs are working optimally. This is known as the personal optimal expiratory flood flow rate.
Spirometry. Spirometry can be performed in a doctor's office with a device called a spirometer. Some people perform the test at home with a handheld spirometer.
The spirometer test is designed to measure the amount of air the lungs can hold and the amount of air exhaled in one second after a deep breath. This volume is called the exertional expiratory volume (FEV1). Compare your FEV1 volume with the typical FEV1 volume of someone without asthma. As with expiratory flood flow readings, the comparison is usually expressed as a percentage.
3. Adjust your treatment to your asthma action plan
When your lungs are not functioning properly, you may need to adjust your medications according to the plan you and your doctor have developed ahead of time. Your written asthma action plan will let you know exactly when and how to make adjustments.
There are two main types of medications used to treat asthma:
Long-term control medications (such as inhaled corticosteroids) are the most important medications for controlling asthma. These preventive medications treat the inflammation in the airways that causes asthma symptoms. Taking these medications daily can reduce or eliminate asthma attacks.
Fast-relief inhalers contain fast-acting medications, such as salbutamol. These medications are sometimes called emergency inhalers. They are used to open the airways quickly when needed to make breathing easier. Knowing when to use these medications can help prevent an impending asthma attack.
Long-term control medications are the key to keeping your asthma control levels in the green zone. Asthma cannot be controlled if you are constantly using a quick relief inhaler to treat your symptoms. See your doctor to change your treatment.
Make sure you know how to use your asthma medications correctly. The only way to control your asthma is to use these medicines correctly.
Cooperate with your doctor
Asthma symptoms and severity are always changing. Following a plan helps avoid asthma attacks and minimizes the disturbances caused by asthma symptoms.
Visit your doctor regularly to check on your treatment. Carry an asthma diary and action plan with you so you can review it with your doctor and make any necessary changes to your treatment plan.
The following are some of the reasons why medication may need to be adjusted:
If following the plan does not stop the uncomfortable symptoms, talk with your doctor about the possibility of increasing or changing your medication.
If your asthma is well controlled, you may be able to reduce the amount of medication you take.
If you have seasonal allergy triggers, you may need to increase your asthma medication at certain times of the year.