Asthma image courtesy of flickr/ifeel_infinite

Despite being one of the most common diseases that children face in today's world, asthma is still perplexing to many doctors and their patients. Asthma is complex in that it affects each person differently. Some doctors are quick to diagnose patients with asthma, while others hesitate. This is because there is no universally agreed upon method of diagnosis. To add to the confusion, patients each generally experience their symptoms differently and in different situations. For example, some patients only experience symptoms during certain activities, certain times of the day, some only certain times of the year, and some patients only experience symptoms during certain periods of their life. Unfortunately, this also means that not every person will be able to treat their asthma the same way.

Basic Tips for Controlling Asthma

There are still things that anyone with asthma can do to help reduce their symptoms. The first thing you should do if you believe you or a loved one may have asthma is talk to a doctor immediately. Just because asthma is common does not mean it is not a serious health concern. If asthma is severe enough, a doctor may prescribe medication. There are two major types of medication that a doctor may prescribe to treat asthma: maintenance medication and rescue medication. Maintenance medication is a slow-acting medication that should be taken routinely and long-term in order to prevent symptoms and asthma attacks. Asthma attacks are sudden fits of symptoms – coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness – which are due to the muscles in the lungs suddenly tightening and making it difficult for air to flow. If an asthma attack begins, it can be treated by using a rescue medication. These faster-acting medications work quickly to dilate the air passageways in the lungs, allowing more room for air to flow, and therefore helping to relieve the symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes for Asthmatics

Besides medication, a doctor may also suggest personalized changes in lifestyle to help maintain control over asthma symptoms, such as quitting smoking if you are a smoker. They may also suggest you lower your weight or make a plan to reduce stress. However, despite how complex and personalized asthma is, there are some lesser known tips that anyone with asthma can follow to help control their symptoms.

Lesser Known Tips for Controlling Asthma

1. Avoid exposure to allergens!

Asthma has been closely linked to allergies. Some doctors believe that allergies and asthma tend to go hand-in-hand. In fact, at least half of those with asthma also suffer from allergies and allergy-induced asthma symptoms. In many cases, exposure to allergens triggers asthma symptoms and can even trigger an asthma attack. To help avoid this, close your windows and use an air conditioner to cool your home in the summer, keep outside allergens and pet dander under control by regularly vacuuming and changing your linens, and avoid sources of pollen and dust.

2. Fight off mold.

Similarly to allergens, mold has a tendency to spark asthma symptoms and is sometimes responsible for asthma attacks. Check your home for mold that might be hiding, and take note of any potential areas where mold could grow. Mold thrives in cool, damp areas like your bathroom and your basement. You might also find mold in your attic, inside your walls, in your shed or garage, and on your carpets – hiding in plain sight! Unfortunately, mold is a living fungus that must be killed and removed properly, or it will likely just grow back.

3. Avoid smoke!

Okay, this is a pretty well-known tip for avoiding asthma symptoms, but many people think this only applies to cigarette smoke. The truth is that any kind of smoke that enters the lungs can irritate and damage the lungs' airways, causing inflammation, coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and other asthma symptoms. Smoke inhalation is commonly responsible for severe asthma attacks, so steer clear of it to maintain control over your asthma.

4. TELL people about your asthma.

This little tip can go a long, long way into helping you keep control over your asthma symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. Think about it – if your friends, family, boss, and colleagues all know about your asthma, they are far less likely to do something that might jar your symptoms, like light up a cigarette while standing next to you. They may also be much more sensitive about engaging in behavior that might expose you to dust or other allergens. Heck, it might even help you get out of doing some unpleasant chores – but you did not hear that from us!

5. Take notes about your symptoms.

While this is not exactly the most exciting way to fend off asthma symptoms, keeping a simple record of where you were, what time of day it was, what was happening, and what environment you were in each time your symptoms occur can give you a much better picture of what triggers your symptoms. By having a good idea of what specifically causes your symptoms, you become much more well-equipped to understand how to avoid them.

Take Our Short Asthma Quiz

If you believe you or a loved one may have asthma, speak to your doctor.

1. Do you sometimes experience unexplained shortness of breath or the inability to 'catch' your breath?

2. Do you have an unexplained cough that has lasted longer than three weeks?

3. Do you wheeze or make an audible sound when you are breathing?

4. Do you cough or wheeze after or during exercise?

5. Does anyone in your immediate family have asthma or allergies?

If you said yes to any of these questions, tell your doctor.

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