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Asthma is a common lung condition that affects your airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs). It is a long-term condition with currently no cure, but that doesn’t mean you should let your asthma control you.
Fortunately, there are many simple and effective ways to treat and manage your or your child’s asthma. In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma which is 1 in every 12 adults and 1 in every 11 children. However, as well as medicines, there are many things you can do to control and alleviate your symptoms so that you can live a normal life. Keep reading to learn about tips on how to live with your asthma with euroClinix.
The key to asthma management is making sure you take your asthma medications correctly. Most people with asthma will have two types of inhaler, a reliever which is usually blue and a preventer inhaler, which is usually brown. Preventer inhalers have low doses of steroids in them that, if taken every day, keep the inflammation in your airways down. This is important as this will mean you are less sensitive to triggers, and therefore less likely to have a reaction.
You may also be advised to have a peak flow meter. It is a small device which measures how quickly you can blow air out of your lungs. Checking your peak flow score regularly is a good way to monitor your airway inflammation, and often shows a change in your airways before you develop symptoms.
Your asthma nurse or your GP will teach you how to use your inhalers, or any additional medication you take.
Having asthma means your airways are always more inflamed than those without asthma, meaning you are more sensitive to certain triggers. Some common triggers include: smoke fumes (pollution or cigarette smoke), animal fur, pollen as well as other allergens. Some triggers can be more difficult to identify, but keeping a diary of all your activities in a day can help you in mapping your triggers to your reactions.
Although taking your preventer inhaler every day is the best way to keep your asthma in-check, some common triggers can be controlled with simple solutions. For instance, if one of your asthma triggers is cold weather, you should do your best to keep warm and dry to prevent a flare up during the winter months. Similarly, if one of your triggers is pet fur and you’re visiting the house of someone you know has a pet, you could take an antihistamine before leaving.
Sometimes triggers are unavoidable, but having a plan of action for when you can’t avoid them can reduce the risk of a reaction. Your GP or asthma nurse can help you with coming up with a plan for your triggers, some people with severe allergic asthma may benefit from seeing an allergist - someone who specialises in allergy treatment.
Vaccines are an effective way of reducing the risk of contracting much more serious, but avoidable, conditions that can cause complications for people with asthma. The flu jab in the UK is free for people with asthma and you can get it in your local GP or pharmacy. You can find your nearest site through the NHS website. The pneumococcal vaccine (commonly known as the pneumonia vaccine) in adults is also recommended for those with asthma. People with asthma are also a high priority for the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine and booster vaccines in the UK, which you can also book through the NHS.
There are many myths surrounding vaccinations, but they are clinically proven to be safe and one of the most effective ways of stopping you from getting these serious conditions, as well as potentially passing them onto others.
It’s important that you see your asthma nurse and your GP regularly so they can make sure your medicines are working and help you if you are struggling with managing your asthma. It’s recommended that you have asthma check ups annually but you may need to be seen sooner if you have an attack or you feel like your symptoms are worsening. In a check-up, expect to have some lung function tests such as a peak flow or spirometry tests that will assess your breathing. You should also make sure you’re prepared for your appointment; think about any questions you need to ask and any new developments in your condition or lifestyle that you think your asthma team should be aware of.
Stopping smoking will always be your first step in treating many chronic health conditions, but it will help with your asthma especially. Smoke from cigarettes, shisha and e-cigarettes can all trigger asthma attacks and cause permanent damage to your lungs. The nicotine in cigarettes is also very addictive, but it is never too late to quit.
Thankfully, there is plenty of help available. There are several treatments available in the UK such as NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) in the form of lozenges, sprays, gum or patches. You can also be prescribed medicines that help with cravings and alleviate withdrawal symptoms such as Champix and Zyban.
There are many online resources available such as NHS Smokefree as well as support groups. Your asthma nurse or GP can also help you tackle smoking.
Like quitting smoking, weight loss is often one of the first steps to helping with many conditions. Being overweight means your asthma is much harder to manage and you’re much more likely to have flare-ups and asthma attacks. Finding the best diet and exercise regime can be a long process but there are some small changes you can make to get you started on the right path.
The key to eating well is having a reduced-calorie, balanced diet that incorporates all the food groups. Regular physical activity is also important. The NHS recommends either 150 minutes of moderate activity (such as walking or cycling) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (such as jogging or an intense sport). You will start to see the improvements in your breathing and asthma management even just from losing a small amount of weight. You will also improve your overall health and reduce your risk of other weight-related conditions. Speak to your asthma nurse or GP if you’re not sure how to go about losing weight; they can help set up a weight loss plan as well as suggest some asthma-friendly exercises that will be suitable for you.
There are additional therapies that you can do alongside your medicines to help with your asthma. One way to help your asthma symptoms is to practice breathing techniques such as the Buteykoor Papworth methods, which many have found causes them to use their reliever inhaler less. There are also a multitude of therapies to help you manage your stress, which can be a trigger for reactions. These include, yoga, hypnotherapy and massage therapy.
There are certain risk factors with some alternative therapies for those with asthma. In particular, some herbal remedies can worsen asthma symptoms and cause other complications such as St John’s Wort, Royal Jelly and Butterbur (an unlicensed herbal remedy that claims to help with respiratory conditions). You should always be careful when seeking complementary therapies by making sure the practitioner is accredited. If in doubt, talk to your asthma nurse or GP before starting a particular therapy.
Asthma UK has developed a helpful resource for people with asthma to help you and those around you understand your condition. It’s called an asthma action plan and is a comprehensive but easy-to-read toolkit that everyone in your life can refer to. It’s a two page document that includes your triggers; your GP or asthma nurse’s contact details; details on your medication and what to do if you have an attack. It’s designed to be printed and filled out with your GP or asthma nurse. Then, you can put it up where everyone can see it or share it with your employer, your friends and anyone else who needs to know what to do when your asthma flares up.
They have also made a version of the asthma action plan for children. Print it and take it to your child’s next asthma check up. Even if your child is still quite young, filling it out with them will encourage them to ask questions and understand their condition a bit better. Make sure to share it with the school or nursery team so everyone around your child knows what to do if they have a reaction.
Asthma UK also has plenty of resources and articles about asthma management, from travelling with asthma to playing instruments. They also have a helpline and a WhatsApp that you can message, all to help you or your child have a relatively normal life with asthma.
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