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Tips for Controlling Your Asthma

IMAGE Asthma that is not well controlled can cause many problems. People miss work or school, go to the hospital, or even die because of their asthma. But you do not have to put up with the problems that asthma can cause.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers the following tips to help keep your asthma under control:

Get Proper Care

You can prevent serious problems related to asthma by getting proper care. With the help of your doctor, you can have control over your asthma and become symptom-free most of the time. But your asthma does not go away when your symptoms go away. You must take care of your asthma, even if you have a mild case.

Assess Your Symptoms

You may have all of these asthma symptoms, some of them, or just one. Symptoms can be mild or severe and may include:
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
Signs that your asthma is not well controlled can include any of the following:
  • You have symptoms on more than 2 days in a week
  • You need to use your rapid-acting medicine to relieve your symptoms more than 2 days in a week
  • You awaken at night with symptoms more than 2 times in a month
  • Your symptoms interfere with your normal activity
  • Your peak flow is below 80% of your personal best

Work With Your Doctor

  • Agree on clear treatment goals with your doctor.
  • Ask questions (eg, What should I do to control my asthma? When and why should I do these things?). Be sure to bring up any concerns.
  • Tell your doctor if you think you’ll have trouble doing what is asked.
  • Bring your medications and written action plan to each visit.
  • Before leaving your doctor’s office, write down the things you are supposed to do.
  • See your doctor at least every six months to check your asthma and review your treatment.
  • Consider using an online program to manage your symptoms. These programs can help to improve asthma control and lung function. Organizations like the American Lung Association and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America offer information on asthma management and support groups. Your doctor can also recommend an online program.
  • Stay in contact with your doctor between visits, especially if your symptoms are changing. Whether you stay in contact over the phone, through email, or through your doctor's website, good communication can help you stay out of the hospital and have better control of your asthma.

Take the Right Medications at the Right Time

Long-term Control MedicinesShort-term or “Quick-Relief” Medicines
There are two main kinds of asthma control medicines: long-term control medicines and short-term (quick-relief) medicines.
Long-term control medicines prevent symptoms and control asthma. It often takes a few weeks before you feel the full effects of this medicine. Ask your doctor about taking daily long-term control medicines if you:
  • Have asthma symptoms three or more times a week
  • Have asthma symptoms at night more than twice in a month
  • Have trouble doing all your normal activities
  • Have a peak flow less than 80% of your personal best
If you need long-term control medicine, you will need to take your medicine each day. Post reminders to yourself to take your medicine on time.
For almost everyone with persistent asthma, a long-term control regimen should include a form of inhaled cortisone (“steroid”). Ask your doctor if you are not sure whether a steroid is part of your treatment.
Inhaled quick-relief medicine quickly relaxes and opens your airways and relieves asthma symptoms. But it only helps for about four hours. Take quick-relief medicine when you first have symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. This can keep you from having an asthma attack. Do not delay!
Tell your doctor if you notice that you’re using more of this medication than usual. This is often a sign that your long-term control medicine needs to be changed or increased.

Use Your Peak Flow Meter Correctly

A peak flow meter helps you to check how well your asthma is controlled, especially if you have moderate to severe asthma. Ask your doctor or other healthcare providers to check how you use your peak flow meter—just to be sure you are using it correctly.
You should use your peak flow meter at the following times:
  • Every morning when you wake up, before you take medicine
  • When you are having asthma symptoms or an attack, and after taking medicine for the attack (This can tell you how bad your asthma attack is and whether your medicine is working.)
  • Any other time your doctor suggests
If you use more than one peak flow meter (such as at home and at school), be sure that both meters are the same brand.

Avoid Triggers

You can help prevent asthma attacks by staying away from things that make your asthma worse. Keep in mind that some things that make asthma worse for some people are not a problem for others.
Common asthma triggers include:
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Dust mites
  • Animal dander
  • Cockroaches
  • Vacuum cleaning
  • Indoor mold
  • Pollen and outdoor mold
  • Smoke, strong odors, and sprays
  • Other
    • Flu
    • Sulfites in foods
    • Cold air
    • Certain medications (Tell your doctor about all the medications you take.)


American Lung Association http://www.lungusa.org

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America http://www.aafa.org/


Asthma Society of Canada http://www.asthma.ca/

Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html


Asthma. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma/. Updated June 15, 2012. Accessed July 26, 2012..

Asthma exacerbation in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 2, 2011. Accessed August 1, 2012.

1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: McLean S, Chandler D, Nurmatov U, Liu J, Pagliari C, Car J, Sheikh A. Telehealthcare for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(10):CD007717.

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