Three Expert Tips for Asthma Control

Use these proven strategies to prevent flare-ups

women using inhaler

When you are managing asthma, there’s a lot to remember. At times, that can feel overwhelming. But if you focus on a couple key things, such as knowing and avoiding your asthma triggers, controlling asthma can feel more manageable. Asthma triggers that bring on symptoms include dust mites, tobacco smoke, animal dander, and pollen. Talk with your doctor to learn triggers you should avoid to reduce your risk of asthma attacks.

Nadia Nathalie Hansel, M.D., an asthma expert and associate dean for research at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, recommends three other ways to keep your asthma under control.

Use your medicine
Some people with asthma use their medicine only when they start to feel symptoms, such as chest tightness, says Dr. Hansel. But it’s very important to take your asthma medicine exactly as directed by your doctor. Don’t cut back on your medicine without first asking your doctor.

“If you use an inhaler, check with your doctor to make sure you are using it correctly,” Dr. Hansel says. Ask if you should be using a spacer. This is a device that can help the medicine get deeper into the lungs.

Stay active
It’s important to stay active when you have asthma. Good activities to choose include walking, swimming, yoga, golf, or light weightlifting.

If exercise brings on wheezing or coughing, talk with your doctor about what to do. Your doctor may recommend that you use medication before you exercise to avoid shortness of breath. If cool, dry air irritates your lungs, exercise indoors. Walk in place or use a fitness video at home. Indoor swimming is also a great activity because of the warm, humid air.

Get a flu shot
The flu can be more serious for people with asthma, even if their asthma is mild or their symptoms are well-controlled by medication, Dr. Hansel says. Both adults and children with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after getting sick with the flu than people without asthma. That’s why it’s so important for you to get a flu shot each year. To help avoid colds and the flu, wash your hands often with soap and water. If you can stay away from crowds during flu season, that can also lower your risk of catching the flu.