Having asthma means that you need to be ready for a flare at any time. But this doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying your life.
It’s true that you have challenges that people without asthma don’t have to think about. Air quality, potential triggers, and stress are just some of the factors you need to account for each day.
But with the right preparation, you can be ready for any situation. If you manage your condition well, you can enjoy the same activities as a person who’s not living with asthma.
You’re ready to go out if:
- Your asthma is well managed.
- You are well rested.
- Your overall health is good.
Remember to pace yourself, and make sure the people you’re with know about your asthma.
Give them a copy of your asthma action plan if you think there’s a chance you’ll have an attack while you’re out. You can create an asthma action plan with this worksheet from the American Lung Association.
Always have your medication with you, as well as your medical insurance information and emergency contact numbers.
Prepping for an outdoor event
You may not have full control over the presence of outdoor asthma triggers. However, if you’re aware of them, you can prepare to minimize their impact.
An important part of outdoor asthma management is taking controller medication as prescribed and always carrying reliever medication with you.
Here are some common outdoor triggers and how to manage them:
|Trigger management strategy
|Check pollen counts and avoid direct contact areas, like those with freshly cut grass.
|Avoid green spaces like forests during mold spore season in the fall.
|Avoid cold air exertion and cover your mouth and nose with a scarf.
|Check pollution counts and if they’re high, stay indoors if possible.
Sometimes the right choice is to stay home and rest or join in via live stream if you have a friend with a full cellphone battery. You can also reschedule a less strenuous activity for another time.
Communicate your level of wellness with family and friends. Stress that you’d love to continue receiving activity invitations, but you may not be able to join them every time.
Some occasions are the type you can’t reschedule, like weddings or graduations. You may still be able to attend when you’re not feeling well, with some preparation:
- Create an event action plan with your doctor.
- Rest before the event.
- Ensure you bring any medication you might need.
- Arrange for a way to get home if you’re not feeling well and need to leave early.
- Tell the people you’re with what to do if you have a severe attack.
- Take frequent breaks to sit, relax, and observe.
Most importantly, enjoy the experience. If you have a positive mindset, this can lower your stress level and in turn, help you feel better.
When to get help
Well-managed asthma is usually uneventful, but preparation is key if you experience a severe attack. It’s important for the people you’re with to
- difficulty breathing or speaking
- shortness of breath at rest
- nails or lips turning blue
- symptoms quickly worsening
- reliever medication not working
Having asthma doesn’t have to stop you from exercising. Instead, it can actually ease future asthma symptoms as your fitness increases by improving the health of your lungs, according to the American Lung Association.
If you’re just starting an exercise routine, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about it first. You can ask about activities to avoid and whether you should take medication before your workout.
Some people have exercise-induced asthma. If you experience this or any chest discomfort, stop your workout. Use your inhaler and take this opportunity to sit and relax.
If you live with asthma, the American Lung Association cautions that there are a few things to remember when exercising:
- Start with a warmup, and end with a cool-down period.
- Pace yourself and take as many breaks as you need.
- If you’re exercising in cold air, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf.
- Avoid continuous-activity sports, like soccer and long-distance running.
- Check your local air quality before exercising outdoors.
Regular workouts can result in improvements in asthma symptoms because of the way exercise contributes to lung health.
Your work is important. It’s how you earn a living, spend much of your time, and meet new people. You may be among the lucky ones who also consider it a source of enjoyment and fulfillment.
But it may not be a place where you’d like to discuss personal health issues. You might worry about being treated differently or causing conflict with your employer.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination. If your asthma is severe enough, it may qualify as a disability. This means that your employer may be required to make reasonable accommodations for your asthma, such as a modified work schedule.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers suggestions to help people with asthma in the workplace, some of which include:
- Ensure the environment is clean and healthy and free from smoke and fragrance.
- Adjust the air temperature and humidity as required.
- Provide additional asthma care breaks.
- Change pest control practices as needed.
- Allow for accessibility issues by moving work location closer to equipment.
- Modify attendance policy, schedule, and work location as needed.
- Test air quality and reduce pollutants.
You’ll have to disclose your condition to human resources to get accommodations under the ADA.
In addition to advocating for your legal rights, you can also educate your co-workers about asthma. They’ll likely appreciate knowing how they can help you if you have an asthma attack.
Managing asthma can feel overwhelming at times. Multiple sources of support are available to help make it easier.
Consider reaching out to:
- Patient support groups. Connect in person or online with other people in your situation to share experiences and empathy.
- Medical care team. Your treating physician and other clinicians involved in your care can help you manage your symptoms to minimize or prevent condition progression.
- Therapist or counselor. Mental health support can help you reduce stress, which might ease your symptoms and allow you to enjoy life more.
Asthma is chronic, lifelong, and requires daily care. But if your condition is well controlled, you can participate in most of the activities enjoyed by your family and friends.
With some planning and communication, you can have an enjoyable social life, a fulfilling career, and enviable fitness even while living with asthma.