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Living With Asthma Round-Up

By Kate Kellaway

Living with asthma can be difficult at times, but it is manageable. Here we recap some helpful strategies for managing your asthma.

              Living With Asthma Round-Up

Get your allergies tested and treated

Most cases of asthma are related to underlying allergies. If your asthma warrants it, your doctor may refer you to an allergy specialist. You’ll probably have a skin prick test to work out what you’re allergic to. Confirmed allergies can often be managed by avoiding the trigger, desensitisation therapy or a combination of the two.

Be medication savvy

It can be daunting at first, but with time, taking your medications becomes as much a part of your routine as brushing your teeth. Make sure you understand what each of your medications is used for, when you should take it and how to use any inhaler devices correctly. Most of all, it’s very important to take all your prescribed medications (including regular preventer and symptom controller inhalers) just as your doctor has explained to you. This is because your medications are designed to work together to keep your asthma under control so you’re less likely to experience flare-ups.  If you have any concerns or difficulties with your medications, talk with your doctor before you consider stopping them.

Team up with your doctor and develop an asthma action plan

See your doctor regularly. The better your GP knows you and your illness, the better they’ll be able to recommend your ideal treatment. And if you follow your GP’s advice and do the things that keep you well, you’ll have fewer asthma symptoms.

One of the most important things you can do with your doctor to manage your asthma is develop – and stick to – an asthma action plan. This list of 'what to do when' discusses your medications, what to do when your symptoms flare up and how to manage asthma attacks and emergencies.

Keep track of your peak flow measures

The higher your peak flow, the better your medications are working. By comparing regular peak flow readings to your personal best measure, you can monitor the success of your asthma management.

Exercise regularly

Asthma isn't a reason to avoid exercise. Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day helps to strengthen your lungs, control your weight and maintain your general health and wellbeing. While exercise can trigger asthma symptoms in some people, these can usually be controlled with the right medication and avoiding outdoor exercise in certain conditions.

Quit smoking

Smoking leads to more frequent asthma attacks, more severe asthma symptoms and more chance of ending up in hospital. Quitting is easier said than done, but there are ways to kick the habit for good. Medications, counselling and exercise can all help make quitting that bit more achievable and improve your chance of long-term success.

Treat your hay fever to help your asthma

The majority of people with asthma have allergic rhinitis too, and in many cases the two conditions are driven by common allergies to things like house dust mites, pets, pollen and moulds. Try to avoid exposing yourself to these allergens, but don’t go overboard. The best thing you can do for allergic rhinitis (and asthma) is to get your allergies tested and treated.

Nip flare-ups due to colds and flu in the bud

Colds and flu can make your asthma symptoms a whole lot worse. You can nip these flare-ups in the bud by seeing your doctor at the first sign of trouble. You can also get an influenza vaccination every autumn, and a pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccination every five years. Basic hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing, also go a long way towards reducing your risk of catching colds or flu.

Eat healthy food

Food allergies are uncommon among people with asthma, so there’s no need to avoid certain foods or adopt a special diet unless you have a confirmed a food allergy or intolerance.

A varied, balanced diet is what's needed to maintain good general health, control your weight and get the right mix of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Just remember that eating the right amount of food is just as important as eating the right types of food. Even healthy food can lead to weight gain if you eat too much of it.

Adopt healthy sleeping habits and get checked out if you snore

If you find you are waking up because of your asthma during the night more than once a week, it’s a sign your asthma is not being well controlled and your doctor may need to adjust your treatment.

Another potential health issue that can contribute to night time asthma symptoms can be obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). So if you’re following your updated asthma action plan to the letter, but you’re still having troublesome asthma symptoms after dark, talk to your doctor.and having a sleep study to check whether this is an issue for you may also be beneficial, because treating OSA can make you feel much better.

Manage your stress levels

Stress and strong emotions can exacerbate asthma symptoms, but there are many ways to stop this from happening – you can try exercise, problem solving and relaxation techniques.

Prolonged stress can increase your risk for depression, which is common among people with asthma. Be sure to talk to your doctor and get the help you need if you suspect you may have depression.

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