It's important to treat asthma, because even mild asthma can damage your airways.
Know the goals of treatment
By following your treatment plan, you can meet your goals to:15
- Prevent symptoms.
- Keep your peak
flow and lung function as close to normal as possible.
- Be able to
do your normal daily activities, including work, school, exercise, and
- Prevent asthma attacks.
- Have few or no side
effects from medicine.
- Asthma: Taking Charge of Your Asthma
Follow your asthma action plan
An asthma action plan tells you which medicines to take
every day and how to treat
asthma attacks. It also may include an
asthma diary where you record your
peak expiratory flow (PEF), symptoms, and triggers.
This helps you identify triggers that can be changed or avoided. It also lets you be aware of
your symptoms and know how to make quick decisions about medicine and
treatment. See an
example of an asthma action plan (What is a PDF document?).
- Asthma: Using an Asthma Action Plan
You'll likely take several medicines to control your asthma and to prevent attacks. Your doctor may adjust your medicines depending on
how well your asthma is controlled. Medicines include:
- Oral or injected corticosteroids. These medicines may be used to get your asthma
under control before you start taking daily medicine. They can also be used to treat any sudden and severe
symptoms (asthma attacks), such as shortness of breath.
- Inhaled corticosteroids (controller medicine). These reduce the
inflammation in your airways. You take them every
day to keep asthma under control and to prevent asthma attacks.
- Short-acting beta2-agonists and
anticholinergics (quick-relief medicine). These medicines are used for asthma attacks. Overuse of quick-relief medicine can be
deliver medicine directly to the lungs. To get the best asthma control possible, be sure you know how to use your inhaler. Use a spacer with your inhaler if your doctor recommends it.
- Asthma: Using a Metered-Dose Inhaler
- Asthma: Using a Dry Powder Inhaler
Go to checkups
Be sure to monitor your asthma and have regular checkups. Checkups are recommended
every 1 to 6 months, depending on how well your asthma is controlled.
Monitor peak flow
It's easy to underestimate how severe your symptoms are. You may
not notice them until your lungs are functioning at 50% of your
personal best peak expiratory flow (PEF).
PEF is a way to keep track of asthma symptoms at home. It can help you know
when your lung function is getting worse before it drops to a dangerously low
level. You can do this with a
peak flow meter .
- Asthma: Measuring Peak Flow
asthma triggers increases symptoms. Try to avoid irritants (such as smoke or air pollution) or things
that you may be allergic to (such as
animal dander). If
something at work is causing your asthma or making it worse (occupational asthma), you may have to change jobs.
- Asthma: Identifying Your Triggers
If you have persistent asthma and react to
allergens, you may need to have
skin testing for allergies.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be helpful.
- Allergies: Should I Take Allergy Shots?
Get help for special concerns
considerations in treating asthma include:
- Treating other health problems. If you also have other health problems, such as inflammation
and infection of the sinuses (sinusitis) or
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you will need
treatment for those conditions.
- Managing asthma during pregnancy. If a
woman had asthma before becoming pregnant, her symptoms may become better or
worse during pregnancy. Pregnant women whose asthma is not well controlled may
be at risk for a number of complications.
- Managing asthma in older adults. Older adults tend to have worse asthma symptoms and a higher
risk of death from asthma than younger people. They may also have one or more
other health conditions or be taking other medicines that can make asthma
- Managing exercise-induced asthma. Exercise often
causes asthma symptoms. Steps you can take to reduce the risk of this include
using medicine 10 to 30 minutes before you exercise.
- Managing asthma before surgery. People who have moderate to severe asthma are at
higher risk of having problems during and after surgery than people who don't have asthma.
Know what to do if asthma gets worse
asthma isn't improving, make an appointment with your
If your medicine isn't working to control airway
inflammation, your doctor will first check to see if you are using the
inhaler correctly. If you are using it the right way, your
doctor may increase the dosage, switch to another medicine, or add a medicine
to your treatment.
For severe asthma that cannot be controlled with medicines, a newer treatment called bronchial thermoplasty may be used. For this treatment, heat is applied to the airways. This reduces the thickness of the airways and improves the ability to breathe.16, 17
Plan for emergencies
If you have a severe asthma
red zone of your asthma action plan), use medicine based on your
action plan and talk with a doctor right away about
what to do next. This is especially important if your
peak expiratory flow (PEF) doesn't return to the
green zone or if it stays in the
yellow zone after you take medicine.
You may have to
go to the hospital or an emergency room for treatment. Be sure to tell the
emergency staff if you are pregnant.
At the hospital, you will
probably receive inhaled beta2-agonists and
corticosteroids. You may be given
oxygen therapy. Your lung function and condition will
be checked. You may need more treatment in the emergency
room or a stay in the hospital.
Some people are
at increased risk of death from asthma, such as people
who have been admitted to an intensive care unit for asthma or who have needed
a breathing tube (intubation) for asthma. If you are high-risk, seek medical
care early when you have symptoms.