Smart Tips for Managing Asthma

Smart Tips for Managing Asthma

Check out the following smart asthma tips and information to help manage your symptoms in everyday situations:

Asthma Action Plan

One of the smartest things you can do if you or your child has asthma is to develop an Asthma Action Plan with your physician. An asthma action plan contains information about what medicines your doctor has prescribed and when and how you should take them. It also describes what to do if you have an asthma emergency.

Like a traffic light, the Asthma Action Plan has three colored zones: green, yellow and red. These zones help guide patients and caregivers by providing instructions for medication use and dosage at the onset of particular symptoms. The green section means symptoms are well controlled, the yellow section means your symptoms are getting worse and you may need to increase medication, and the red section signifies symptoms that require urgent medical attention.

Asthma at home

Your home should be the place where you feel most comfortable. If you find your asthma to be a problem around the house, check out the following tips or watch our "Asthma in the Home" video for ways to "asthma-proof" your home to help reduce or eliminate triggers:

  1. Eliminate common asthma triggers – Look through your house for common triggers like dust mites, mold, pet dander, cockroaches and pollen and eliminate what you can. Also, if you have asthma, you should eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke since it can trigger asthma symptoms.

  2. Kill mold and mildew – Though it’s probably not your favorite task, eliminating mold and mildew from your bathroom can help prevent asthma flare-ups. Be sure to wash all bathmats and towels on a regular basis to avoid particle build-up. Also, keep your bathroom well ventilated so that mold and mildew is reduced.

  3. Outsmart the dust mites – Dust mites are tiny bugs that feed on flakes of human skin and are found in mattresses, pillows, carpet, upholstered furniture and stuffed animals. Wash your sheets in hot water (at least 130° F) and vacuum your floors weekly to minimize dust mites. Look for products with an asthma & allergy friendly™ seal from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Certification Program.

  4. Clear the air – Many people seal their windows and doors to manage their heating and cooling costs, and doing so can also help you manage your asthma by keeping outdoor allergens, like pollen, from entering your house. It's also a good idea to invest in a good central heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system to minimize air pollution. Be sure to clean or change the filters every three to six months. Keeping HVAC air filters clean can help minimize many common indoor asthma triggers.

Asthma at Work

Aside from your home, the workplace is where you spend most of your time – so creating an "asthma-friendly" environment is important. While you may not have complete control over your exposure to certain triggers, it's possible to manage your symptoms around the office:

  1. Avoid asthma triggers – You can find asthma triggers at work as well as at home. Eliminate dust by cleaning your desk and keyboard with a damp cloth on a regular basis. Be aware that if your office has new furniture, paint, or carpeting, the chemicals in these products can also be asthma triggers.

  2. Be open about your asthma – Having asthma is nothing to be embarrassed about. Be sure your co-workers know who to contact in case you have an asthma attack in the office and that your emergency contact’s information is on file.

Asthma at School

Before returning to the classroom, it’s important that children with asthma and their caregivers are prepared for the busy school year ahead. In the classroom, children can often be exposed to germs that could lead to a worsening of asthma symptoms. As a caregiver, when equipped with the right information and understanding of the right steps to take, you can feel comfortable knowing that your child’s asthma is well-managed during the school day. Check out the "Understanding Asthma in Children" video to learn more.

  1. Build an Asthma Action Plan – Make sure that your child has an Asthma Action Plan and that you review the plan with other important adults in his or her life, including:

    • Teachers and school nurses
    • Coaches and physical education instructors
    • Scout leaders
    • Babysitters, grandparents, and other caregivers

  2. Communicate – Make sure your child has the right knowledge to better manage his or her asthma. Talking to your child’s caregivers about asthma is also important, whether that means teachers, family members, or the parents of your child's friend. Make sure they understand and are comfortable with your child's needs.

  3. Make sure your child's medical information is complete – Before the school year begins, don't forget to provide teachers and school nurses with your child’s most up-to-date medical information.

  4. Teach your child about their medicine – Be sure to establish a routine for taking the medication as prescribed. Whether it's a long-term control medicine or a rescue inhaler, be sure your child knows how to properly take his or her medication at the appropriate times.

  5. Pack and label your child's medication – Always be sure your child has the medication they need when they need it. Labeling their inhalers can help avoid confusion between controller and rescue inhalers.

  6. Provide emergency contact information – Have your child carry important contact information, such as your phone number as well as your child’s doctor’s number and an additional emergency contact. It’s also a good idea to include a list of your child’s medications and any allergies he or she may have.

Asthma & Traveling

Traveling to another state or country can be an exciting adventure, but keeping your asthma symptoms under control in new or different environments can be challenging. Be sure to keep your asthma in mind while making travel arrangements and check out the following tips to ensure a happy, healthy trip:

  1. Don't forget your medicine – Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean your asthma is too. When traveling anywhere, whether within the U.S. or abroad, be sure to bring your medications. Also bring a list of all the medications you are taking. Keep the original labels containing refill numbers, prescribing doctor and dosage with you, just in case.

  2. Know your insurance policy – Make sure you understand the details of your medical insurance policy before leaving for your destination. Check to see if your policy provides physician and hospital coverage if you’re out of state or out of the country.

  3. Talk with your doctor – Try to get in touch with your doctor before you start traveling to find out if they have any recommendations for asthma specialists in the area where you will be traveling. Be sure to review your Asthma Action Plan with your doctor before you travel.

  4. Check the weather – For some people, cold air can actually trigger an asthma flare-up, so if you are visiting the mountains or other cold destinations, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for taking your medication and keep a quick-relief inhaler with you at all times.

  5. Travel when air quality is best – If possible, try to arrange your travel schedule so that you are driving in the early morning or late evening when air quality is better. If traveling in your car, try to keep the windows closed and use the air conditioning to avoid letting pollen and other irritants into the car.

Asthma & Spring Allergies

The spring season brings a number of enjoyable elements including an increase in sunshine, flowers and warm weather. Unfortunately, spring’s beauty can be overshadowed by the presence of various allergy triggers, such as pollen. For those living with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, spring allergy triggers may cause symptoms to worsen. However, there are several steps you can take to help manage your asthma while still enjoying the outdoors.

  1. Identify your triggers – In order to control your asthma, it’s important to know what allergens may trigger your symptoms and how to limit your exposure.

  2. Monitor your outdoor air quality – When planning to go outside, remember to first scope out the environment and be aware of any obvious triggers. Remember that the outdoor air quality can be especially bothersome for those with asthma.

  3. Treat your allergy symptoms early – By starting your spring allergy medicine at the onset of the season, you're more likely to have control over your allergy and asthma symptoms.

  4. Shut out pollen – One easy way to prevent pollen from entering your home is to keep windows and doors closed. Use an air filter and clean it regularly or run the air conditioner and change the filter often.

  5. Do most of your exercising indoors – And when you do participate in physical activities outdoors, remember to use your asthma medications before you go.

  6. Shower often – Allergens can stick to your body and clothing. It’s important to shower and wash your clothes after being outside in order to avoid transferring pollen indoors.

Asthma & Fall Allergies

While the fall season is a great time to go outside and enjoy the beautiful colors and cool weather – it also can bring on several bothersome symptoms that may worsen your asthma. Ragweed pollen is the most common fall allergy trigger and causes symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, and an itchy or runny nose. Typically, for those living in the northern and eastern parts of the United States, ragweed pollen is released into the air from mid-August until early October. In southern states, like Texas, counts of pollen released from mountain cedar trees are at their highest, just after autumn, from December through February. There are several ways to keep your asthma symptoms at bay during the fall allergy season:

  1. Keep windows and doors closed – Help prevent pollen from blowing into the house.

  2. Control dust mites on the bed – Look for an asthma & allergy friendly™ certified mattress and wash your sheets weekly in hot water (130-degrees F) to kill mites and their eggs.

  3. Use a quality vacuum – If possible, use one with a high-efficiency filter and vacuum weekly to keep indoor allergens to a minimum.

  4. Change the air filter in your furnace regularly – Filters can trap lots of dust and allergens, so replace them every 30-90 days. Look for asthma & allergy friendly certified filters.

  5. Reduce the presence of mold – Decrease moisture around the house, keep humidity below 50 percent and clean the yard of damp firewood and leaves.

Asthma & Cold/Flu Season

When you have asthma, it is important to protect yourself against cold and flu because these viruses may worsen your asthma symptoms. Unlike seasonal allergies, cold and flu season can often be unpredictable. Activity may begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May; however, activity is often most prevalent in the United States throughout January and February. Having asthma doesn’t make you more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu, but it can be problematic. Here are a few ways to avoid (or manage) a cold or flu this season:

  1. Protect yourself – Ask your doctor about getting an annual flu shot.

  2. Protect others around you – Cover your nose/mouth with a cloth or tissue when you cough/sneeze and throw it away after use.

  3. Wash your hands often with soap and water – Keep your hands clean, especially after coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have access to running water, use an alcohol-based hand cleanser or sanitizer.

  4. Avoid people who are sick – If possible, keep a distance from those who already have cold or flu symptoms.

  5. Minimize germs – Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth to limit the spreading of germs.

  6. Stay home – If you get the flu, avoid going to work or school. Get rest, drink lots of fluids and eat healthy foods. Call your doctor if your symptoms begin to worsen.

Asthma & Other Caretakers

Leaving your child with a babysitter or caretaker who isn’t familiar with managing asthma can be stressful. Check out the following tips on how to ensure your child’s babysitter or caretaker is adequately prepared to manage any problems that may arise:

  1. Discuss your child’s asthma beforehand – Before you leave, be sure to discuss your child’s asthma in great detail with the babysitter or caretaker.

  2. Make sure your babysitter/caretaker knows how to reach you in case of an emergency – You may want to keep your cell phone number and your child’s doctor’s number near the phone.

  3. Review your child's Asthma Action Plan with the babysitter/caretaker – If your child doesn't have one, download the Asthma Action Plan and ask your child's healthcare provider to help you fill it out. Go over the Asthma Action Plan with your babysitter, taking time to explain when and how your child's medicines should be taken. Place that Asthma Action Plan on the fridge or near the phone.

  4. Discuss your child’s asthma triggers – Asthma triggers may include:

    • Cold air
    • Pets and stuffed animals: Be sure the babysitter knows your policy on playing—or sleeping—with pets and stuffed animals
    • Strongly scented perfumes, cigar or cigarette smoke: Make sure your babysitter understands and follows your rules on smoking. Children, especially children with asthma, should not be exposed to tobacco smoke
    • Pollen: If the pollen count is high, you may want to tell the babysitter to keep your child (with asthma) inside

Get Tools for Managing Asthma

See how our collection of downloadable tools can help you manage asthma.

Treat Asthma Inflammation

Get more information about asthma control and treating asthma inflammation.