Asthma is a common condition, especially among children.
Although there’s no cure, there are various ways to help treat and manage your asthma. This can help make it easier to breathe and reduce the impact it has on everyday life and activities, as well as possibly reduce symptoms and flare-ups.
By using a variety of tools to treat and control your asthma, you can continue all your daily activities and enjoy a high quality of life.
For immediate, short-term relief of asthma symptoms, there are several treatments you can use. These treatments address the symptoms of asthma, but they do not address the underlying cause — airway inflammation.
Prescription bronchodilators, also known as inhalers, are an immediate treatment. They open up the pathways into the lungs.
Types of bronchodilators include:
- short-acting inhaled beta2-agonists
These generally help for 4 to 6 hours. If you find yourself needing these more than twice a week, your asthma may not be well-controlled. See a healthcare professional to discuss treatment changes and options.
There are also over-the-counter (OTC) medications, including nonprescription ones like Primatene Mist, as well as bronchodilator medications like ephedrine combined with guaifenesin (usually in brand names like Bronkaid or Primatene).
Before using these medications, talk with a doctor. Even though you don’t need a prescription, these types of medications can have side effects like rapid heartbeat or tremors and may not always be appropriate for your asthma needs.
Controlling your asthma also involves management of symptoms.
This doesn’t always have to mean medication. It can also involve avoiding places or things that trigger asthma reactions and incorporating lifestyle changes that can help minimize the severity of your asthma.
Triggers and irritants
Triggers and irritants can cause an asthma attack, and avoiding these can help you control your asthma. These can be different for each person. Triggers and irritants can include:
- dust mites
- cigarette smoke
- air pollution
- pet dander
- wood fires or charcoal grills
Your asthma symptoms may not always occur during or right after exposure. Sometimes the reaction can be delayed depending on how sensitive you are to the trigger.
Installing air filters in your house or using a smaller air purifier can also help improve the air quality and reduce irritants and triggers.
Eating more fruits and vegetables
A nutrient-rich diet is beneficial in reaching and maintaining a moderate weight, which is also helpful since obesity can increase the severity of asthma and make it harder to treat, according to the American Thoracic Society.
Talk with a healthcare professional about getting a referral to a nutritionist if you need help creating a nutrient-dense meal plan. Nutritionists can work with you to meet your nutritional needs and guide you to adopting a health-promoting lifestyle.
You can also read more about asthma and diet here.
Physical activity is helpful in maintaining a moderate weight. It’s also
- reduced wheezing
- fewer exacerbations of asthma
- reduced amounts of ER visits for asthma
That being said, sometimes exercise can trigger an asthma attack, especially if it’s high-intensity or done in cold weather.
Before starting any exercise routine, talk with a healthcare professional about whether it’s safe for you to do so and what activities they suggest.
There are 4 main types of asthma medications/treatments:
- quick-relief medications: used when symptoms appear and taken as needed
- short-acting beta agonists
- short-acting muscarinic agonists
- controller medications: help control asthma by reducing swelling of airways and getting rid of mucus
- long-acting muscarinic antagonists
- inhaled corticosteroids
- oral corticosteroids
- biologics: used for specific types of persistent asthma
A combination of quick-relief and controller medications can also be taken.
These medications may be taken in the following ways:
- inhaler (bronchodilator)
- orally via a pill or drinkable liquid
If you use an inhaler, using it properly helps you get the most out of the treatment.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), 70 to 90 percent of people using inhalers make at least one mistake when they use it. To prevent this from happening, ask a doctor or nurse to observe your inhaler use to make sure you’re doing everything correctly.
For severe asthma, there is a minimally invasive procedure called bronchial thermoplasty (BT). In BT, controlled heat is applied to the airways to reduce the amount of smooth muscle. This helps to better open the airways and lower the rate of asthma attacks. This is not permanent, but the effects last about 10 years.
There are risks to BT as with any procedure. Talk with a healthcare professional about whether this is an appropriate treatment option for you.
While traditional treatments and management tools for asthma are well studied and commonplace, some people use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments for asthma.
Examples of CAM can include:
- herbs and/or supplements
- breathing exercises or meditation
- yoga and relaxation
Before using any complementary and/or alternative medicine or treatment for your asthma, speak with a healthcare professional first. Even “natural” supplements can interact with medications, and they should not be used in place of anything your healthcare professional prescribes.
It’s possible to keep your asthma under control and successfully manage any flare-ups with a combination of:
- short-term relief
- management techniques
- medical treatment
Sometimes treatment plans or medications may need to be modified over time depending on the seasons and any triggers that are present, but a healthcare professional can work with you to address any changing needs you might have.
Being aware of how to help control your asthma can help you minimize its effects and take care of any issues as they arise.