You don’t have to let asthma stop you from living the active life you want to live. In fact, being active will help your overall health, which can improve your asthma. Make an asthma action plan so that you can understand what triggers your asthma symptoms and know what to do if your asthma becomes an issue.

What Causes Asthma During Exercise?

Exercise requires a lot of oxygen, and when we breathe, we exhale more than just air—we also exhale water. Our lungs are covered with a moist lining, and heavy breathing dries out this lining. This loss of moisture and decreased temperature can aggravate the lungs and trigger asthma symptoms. The most common asthma symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness.

An estimated 80 to 90 percent of people with allergic asthma will experience symptoms of exercise-induced asthma during exercise. If you suffer from asthma, it’s important to know how to handle your asthma symptoms and prevent them when possible.

Develop an Asthma Action Plan

The first step in preventing an asthma attack is understanding what causes it. Triggers cause asthma flares. Avoiding your asthma triggers helps prevent an attack. However, if you have a flare, it’s helpful to have a plan of action. This plan outlines what medicines you need and when, how your asthma is to be treated, and what actions should be taken if you require emergency care.

What Is an Asthma Action Plan?

Think of an asthma action plan as a decision tree. When you’re doing well, your asthma medications are working appropriately and no further action is required. However, when symptoms occur, you need to analyze what is happening and what is causing it. 

An action plan can help you decide:

  • what medicine or treatments you need
  • when you need to use another type of medication to relieve symptoms
  • when your symptoms are becoming serious enough to require emergency attention

What Information Is in an Asthma Action Plan?

An asthma action plan is designed to help you as well as your friends and family members. A plan like the one provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides places for you to list the medicines you can take, how much you take, and when you should take them.

The asthma action plan also helps you monitor how well your lungs are working. For example, many asthma action plans require you to measure and regularly test your peak flow. Peak flow is a measurement of how much air is expelled by your lungs in one quick blast. A peak flow meter detects when your lungs are not expelling as much air as they should be. This is a sign that your asthma is not being properly treated at that moment. By comparing this metric to your “healthy range” in peak flow, you and caretakers can tell when your breathing has been compromised by your asthma.

Who Needs a Copy of My Asthma Action Plan?

It’s important that you commit your own asthma action plan to memory. This will help you treat your symptoms effectively as they occur. It’s also a good idea to give a copy of the plan to a spouse or partner, a parent or relative, and any close friends or family members who may need to know how to care for you should an asthma attack occur. You should also give a copy of your plan to a manager or colleague at work. 

If your child has asthma, make sure their school has a copy of the action plan. Also, ask to meet with the school’s nurse so the two of you can go over the plan together. Outside of the school setting, make sure any caretakers, coaches, counselors, or babysitters have a copy of the action plan and understand it.

You Can—and Should—Be Active if You Have Asthma

Exercise is healthy for everyone, even people with asthma. You can find ways to be active despite the condition. An important piece to include in your asthma action plan is a plan for preventing asthma attacks when you’re exercising. In some cases, your doctor may recommend you take quick-relief medicine before doing any activity. This can help you avoid an asthma flare. You should also keep the medicine with you in the event you need it again during the activity. You can quickly stop what you’re doing, administer your medicine, wait for the symptoms to disappear, and then carry on with your activities.

Talk with Your Doctor

If you have asthma, talk with your allergist or immunologist about creating an asthma action plan during your next appointment. Making a plan of action helps ensure proper treatment the next time you have an asthma attack.

The best way to avoid an asthma attack is to monitor your symptoms each day, keep them under control, and take any medicines exactly as prescribed. Together, you and your doctor can develop a plan that helps you avoid your triggers, manage your symptoms, and live a fulfilling, active life.