Seven tips to help manage asthma
Watching your weight, avoiding pets and keeping your home clean are ways to avoid attacks
In case you have a severe attack, it is advisable to have a reliever inhaler on hand as it can act rapidly to relax straining airways. Photograph: iStock
More than 470,000 adults and children have asthma in Ireland, but, although it is a long-term condition, doctors now believe that, with the right precautions, most people can live active lives.
1) Always ensure you have an emergency inhaler
Two-thirds of deaths due to asthma attacks are thought to be preventable. Asthma symptoms can be controlled with inhalers and oral medications, but, in case you have a severe attack, it is advisable to have a reliever inhaler on hand as it can act rapidly to relax straining airways. If you have to use a reliever inhaler three times a week or more, this is a sign that your asthma isn’t well managed and you should see your doctor to review your medication regime.
2) Identify your common triggers
Everyone with asthma has certain environmental triggers that make them susceptible to an attack. Record the things that could be making your symptoms worse and work out strategies for avoiding them. Common culprits include mould, tobacco smoke and air pollution.
3) Watch your weight
Various studies have found that obesity may result in more severe asthma symptoms and can even trigger the onset of the disease. The link isn’t fully understood, but scientists think it is because the condition is triggered by inflamed and swollen airways and many obese individuals have chronic low-grade inflammation.
4) Keep your home clean
Dusting and vacuuming rooms twice a week (while wearing a filter mask), using high-efficiency particulate air (Hepa) filters to keep the indoor air clean, and washing bedding weekly can lead to an improvement in symptoms. Using anti-dust mite covers on mattresses and pillows can reduce contact with microscopic creatures, present in dust, which can trigger an attack.
5) Avoid pets
Some asthmatics are very sensitive to the proteins in flakes of skin from animals, which can cause the immune system to overreact and trigger an attack. If you still want to keep a pet, grooming and bathing it frequently can help to reduce the likelihood of a reaction. Discuss using a nasal spray to control allergic symptoms with your doctor or asthma nurse.
6) Breathing exercises
Research suggests that a regular programme of breathing exercises, such as the Papworth and Buteyko methods can improve quality of life and reduce the need to use a reliever inhaler. However, these are complementary therapies that should be used alongside medication, not as a replacement.
7) Moderate exercise
Asthmatics can exercise. After all, Tommy Griffin, Paul Scholes and Paula Radcliffe are examples of former sports stars who have asthma. Exercise is often good for asthmatics as it improves lung efficiency and boosts the immune system. However, if you haven’t exercised for a while, or have been experiencing regular attacks, it is best to stick to moderate aerobic exercises, such as walking, yoga or swimming (although the chlorine in swimming pools can trigger an asthma attack in some people). – Guardian