When an annoying cough at night turns out to be asthma cough, the news can be unsettling. But with good treatment, you can reduce the risk of asthma attacks and your asthma can stay free of symptoms for long periods of time. Find out more about breathing better.
Think about it this way: your asthma diagnosis is an explanation for that persistent cough, wheezing or shortness of breath. Now that you know what caused it, you’re also getting a whole kit of tools to ease those symptoms and get back to your normal routine. You can start with these smart habits.
1. Living with asthma – a healthy lifestyle makes it a whole lot easier
There are tons of smart habits that can make a difference in asthma treatment. The first one is simple: quit smoking if you do so, and do your best to avoid passive smoke as that is a strain on your lungs, too.
A balanced diet with fruit and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats can help you keep or get back to normal weight. Losing extra pounds can help you breathe easier and lead an active lifestyle. This might be a good advice for everyone, not just those with asthma.
2. Asthma triggers – pay attention to stress, pollen, dust and fumes
Certain triggers can make asthma worse. If you haven’t cracked yours yet, you can start taking note of what makes your asthma symptoms increase. Common triggers include pollen, perfumes, animals, pollution, cigarette smoke, cold air, mold and damp, or physical exercise such as doing sports.
One to pay special attention to is stress. Getting the diagnosis can be irritating, and it can take some time to process the news. Talking to your friends and family can help, and with any questions you might have, you can always contact your doctor or nurse.
Once you know what causes shortness of breath, cough and wheezing for you, it’s easier to avoid it.
3. Reliever and preventer: know your asthma medicine
There are two main types of asthma medicines: preventers and relievers. The preventer will help you manage your asthma and is for continuous daily use. The preventer reduces the asthma inflammation in your lungs whereas the reliever quickly opens your airways and is to help you when your symptoms get worse.
Proper use of your asthma inhaler and a good inhalation technique makes all the difference in breathing better. Using your preventer accordingly will help you control the inflammation in your lungs and make it easier for you to breathe. Make sure you understand the instructions given by your doctor or nurse, and follow them. Keep your reliever with you in case your asthma symptoms get worse.
4. Use the Peak Flow Meter to stay on top of your inhalation status
You’ve probably used a Peak Expiratory Flow meter when getting the diagnosis for your asthma. A PEF meter is also a handy tool to have at home. Checking your PEF scores regularly helps you stay on top of your inhalation status. When you know your regular levels, it’s easy to spot the change and adjust the medication when needed.
Test your PEF score any time your chest feels tight or you start to get other asthma symptoms. Blow 3 times, take your reliever medication, wait 15-20 minutes and blow again 3 times. In your peak flow diary mark down the average score before and after taking the reliever. Also describe the situation that caused your symptoms. Take your PEF diary with you to your doctor or nurse.
5. Uh-oh, it’s an asthma attack! Know proper asthma treatment
Balanced asthma treatment will reduce your risk of an asthma attack, but nasty surprises can always happen. When you’re new to asthma, it’s a good idea to go through the asthma attack symptoms and treatment instructions with your friends and family so that they’ll know how to support you in case you need help.
When your chest feels tight, you’re coughing and wheezing a lot, can’t breathe well and need to use your reliever a lot, you’re probably having an asthma attack. Stay calm and follow the instructions given by your doctor.
6. Asthma and sports – living with asthma will not stop you
Asthma shouldn’t stop you from doing the things you love - and it won’t necessarily stop you from exercising! You might have to find a substitute for extreme sports, like diving or skydiving, but other than that, the proper level of exercise most often depends on your current condition. With exercise induced asthma, it’s good to talk to your doctor to find a proper way of keeping active while reducing the risk of asthma symptoms.
Endurance training, like running, cycling or ball games can improve your oxygen intake. Yoga and pilates training will help improve your breathing technique and build a strong core, which will make for better posture and more room for easy breathing. You can either enrol to a beginner’s course or try online classes at home.
Start easy and prepare your lungs for the stress with a 10–20 minute warm-up routine. If asthma symptoms bug you during exercise, your doctor can help by adjusting your medication. Also talk to your doctor if exercise makes your asthma worse.
By Anne Ventelä
Orion invests in research and development of treatment options for people with asthma and COPD while also developing the design and usability of the Easyhaler® inhaler device platform. The focus is on safety and quality in each step of the product life cycle while taking care of the environment. All aspects of sustainability - social, economic and environmental - are carefully considered in the whole product life cycle. Sustainability is entwined in the whole process from R&D through manufacturing, including patient use and the disposal of old inhalers.