Although asthma cannot be cured, the good news is that it can be well controlled. Modern drugs and inhalers have enabled people across the world to lead normal, healthy lives. With the right kind of treatment, you too can have a fulfilling life.
In order to control asthma, the first thing you should do is to consult your doctor and understand what to do. For instance, your doctor can advise you about triggers, the things that could bother the airways in your lungs.
Your doctor will prescribe certain medicines to control your asthma but you have to work with him to make your treatment really effective. You must take your medicines exactly as your doctor prescribes to keep your asthma in check. Your doctor can even tell you what to do quickly in an emergency.
Read on to empower yourself with information- what triggers to avoid, the advantages of inhalers over other types of medicines, what to do during an attack and how to keep your asthma well under control.
Why are inhalers better?
The advantages of taking medicines through inhalers have been understood by the world not just in our modern age. Over 2000 years ago, in ancient Egypt, Greece and in India, people had realized the benefits of inhaling medicinal herbs and leaves to relieve their breathlessness and asthma. Over the centuries, inhalers developed and now it is much more advanced and effective.
Today asthmatics across the world use inhalers which enable them to go about their normal, daily activities. Asthma inhalers have given people the freedom to lead fulfilling lives, even with asthma.
The world over, asthma inhalers are proven to be better than other forms of treatment like pills or syrups. Why? When you have a problem with your eye, you put drops in your eye. When you have a problem with your skin you rub an ointment or cream on your skin. You don't swallow a tablet or some syrup. You put the medicine exactly where it is needed. The same way, for asthma, you inhale or breathe in the medicine through an inhaler which you place in your mouth.
This is more effective because the inhaled medicine is delivered directly and quickly exactly where it is required, which is the airways in your lungs.
Compare this with tablets and syrups for asthma. As you know they have to be swallowed. But what you may not know is that it takes time for the tablet or syrup to act as it has to pass from the stomach to the blood and finally to the lungs. This is slower and it takes longer for the patient to get relief.
Besides, in the case of tablets or syrups, you need a larger dose because everything does not reach the lungs. This means greater side effects. When you take your medicines with an inhaler, the dosage entering your lungs is up to 40 times less and it never goes to the stomach, so there are minimum side effects. It is important for you to ask yourself this question: "Why should I use medicine that goes to other parts of my body when I just need it for my lungs?"
In most developed countries like the USA and UK, inhalers have replaced tablets and syrups as the primary therapy for asthma. It is an effective and safe way to control asthma.
Clinical studies and research by reputed scientific and medical institutes prove that Inhalers are safe. The side effects, if at all, are mild and can be easily minimized. Keep your doctor informed if you experience the slightest discomfort or any side effect.
Asthma inhalers are also affordable. For just a few rupees every day you get relief. You decrease the chance of an attack and the payment of hospital bills. Studies have even revealed that asthma patients on inhalers have regular attendance at work and in schools and colleges.
The 2 types of medicines that can be taken through Inhalers are called Controllers and Relievers. Read on for more information on the inhaled medicines. And consult your doctor for the best treatment for your asthma.
Types of asthma medicines in inhalers
Inhalers have been proved to be safer and more effective to control asthma than tablets, syrups and yes, even alternative medicine. There are 2 types of medicines in Inhalers for Asthma:
These are medicines available in inhalers which you must take regularly to prevent further attacks. Sometimes they are referred to as Preventers. The world over, Controller medicines are the only proven way to control your asthma.
These medicines do not give immediate relief but when they are used over a long period of time, they help control your asthma better. According to universally acknowledged treatment guidelines, people with persistent symptoms must take long-term medication daily to control the underlying swelling and prevent symptoms and an attack.
If you take your Controller regularly you should not get an asthma attack. However, if you do get an attack, you need to take your Reliever medicine immediately. It's important to know that the regular use of your Controller can reduce your need for the Reliever and eventually you will use it rarely. But that is provided you use your Controller every day. So make it a good habit, just like brushing your teeth daily to prevent oral problems. The same way you should take your Controller to prevent asthma attacks.
Tips while using Controllers
- Take your Controller medicine every day at the same time. Set the time in the morning and evening that is most convenient to you.
- If you normally take your Controller in 2 different places, say once at home and once at work, you can keep one Controller at home and one at work. You may find this more convenient than carrying your Controller with you.
- Very often when a patient complains that an Inhaler is not working, the doctor has found out that it is because the patient is using the inhaler wrongly. That's why it's a good idea for you to use your Controller in front of your doctor or his Assistant so that they can point out to you if you are using it incorrectly in any way. Correct usage of your inhaler plays a vital role in controlling your asthma.
They are inhaled for quick relief and yes, even instant relief, during an asthma attack. These short term medicines are called Relievers or even Rescuers. You can think of them as an SOS medicine for an emergency. They help to relieve cough and breathing difficulties when an attack sets in. So when you feel breathless or begin to show the first signs of an attack, you must instantly reach out for the Reliever the doctor has prescribed. And take a few puffs. This will help relax the muscles in your airways and make it easier to breathe.
All asthma patients should always carry their Relievers, even when they go out, just in case of an emergency. After all, an asthma attack can occur without warning.
Tips while using Relievers
- You should always keep your Reliever with you. Never ever be without one. An asthma attack can occur at anytime and anywhere.
- Keep 2 Relievers - one at home and one in your office. If your child has asthma, keep one Reliever at school.
- Show your doctor or his Assistant how you use your inhaler so that they can correct you in case of incorrect usage. Using your Inhaler correctly during an attack plays a crucial role in relieving your asthma.
- You must also educate your family at home or friends at work or at school on how to use the Inhaler properly. So if you have an attack, they can help you with your Inhaler.
- In case you get an asthma attack, click here to find out what to do.
Please note: Always follow the doctor's prescription for which type of medicine and Inhaler to use. Remember to ask your doctor to guide you and demonstrate how to use and maintain your Inhaler. Your first session together is crucial and will ensure you get it right from the start. This will really help you in your fight to control your asthma.
If your doctor prescribes you 2 Inhalers, one is your Controller and one is your Reliever. Make sure you ask him which one is your Controller and which one is your Reliever. You can even write down "Controller" and "Reliever" on the packs to help you remember.
How to use asthma inhalers
The world over, inhalation is proven to be an easy, safe and effective way to control asthma and enjoy a quality life. In inhalation, you breathe in the medicine through the mouth, using a small device called an Inhaler. There are different kinds of Inhalers to meet the different needs of asthma patients according to age, convenience or even the degree of asthma in the patient.
The 2 main types of Inhalers are Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs) and Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs).
The Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI) is also simply called the Spray Inhaler because that is exactly how it works. Some people call it the "pump" because of the pumping action while using this Inhaler.
Many doctors prescribe Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs) to their patients.
To know more about why are inhalers better click here
Learn how to use your Inhaler correctly.
How to keep your asthma under control
Asthma is a chronic condition that requires regular management and treatment. You must realize that you can fight asthma and win by keeping it under control. So that you rarely get another asthma attack again, and you are able to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
Follow these 4 steps to help you keep your asthma under control.
- Avoid your triggers
- Take your Controller medicine regularly
- Check your lung power regularly using the Peak Flow Meter
- Visit your doctor regularly
If you focus on these 4 things you are on your way to controlling your asthma.
Watch out for your triggers
Asthma can differ from person to person. From adult to adult. And from child to child. So it's important that you understand your very own type of asthma and your own triggers and symptoms.
Since asthma symptoms are usually caused or triggered by certain things, you can control your asthma by limiting your exposure to them. Some common triggers are cigarette smoke, air pollution, dust mites, physical exertion and exercise, pollen, fur or feathers. Even illnesses like colds, coughs and viruses, strong emotions like fear, crying, laughing. And certain medicines, including some over- the- counter pain relievers.
Once you discover your particular triggers, do your best to avoid them. Besides, regular inhalation therapy will help you keep your asthma under control.
Take your Controller medicine regularly
Knowing what medicines to take and when to take them is critical in keeping your asthma symptoms under control. So use your Controller Inhaler regularly as prescribed by your doctor. This will reduce your risk of having an asthma attack if you come into contact with a trigger. And even when you are feeling fine, please don't make the mistake of stopping your Controller. Why? When a BP patient abruptly stops taking his BP medicines his BP could rise. The same way you could get another asthma attack because you discontinued your Controller.
It is very important to remember that you must never stop your asthma medication without consulting your doctor. Remember, the doctor can slowly reduce the dosage as you progress and as he sees fit.
When you want quick relief, use your Reliever medication immediately. If you follow all this regularly, you can keep your asthma under control.
Check your lung power regularly using the Peak Flow Meter
Just like you check your BP with a Blood Pressure instrument or your temperature with a thermometer there is the Peak Flow Meter to check your lung power. With the Peak Flow Meter it's so easy to monitor your asthma. This simple instrument measures how well you can blow air out of your lungs. See for yourself how easy it is to use the Peak Flow Meter .
After starting treatment and taking your Controller medicines regularly, you can use the Peak Flow Meter to see how your breathing test results are improving. This way you don't have to guess your improvement in controlling your asthma.
You can actually set your target with your doctor and measure your progress. This will help you stay fit, understand and take control of your asthma at every stage. The best part is that once your target is achieved, the doctor can even consider reducing your dosage' provided you keep going for regular follow ups.
It is advisable that you use the Peak Flow Meter regularly as recommended by your doctor to keep your asthma in check. And remember these regular checks are necessary even if you haven't had an attack for some time.
So where can you get a Peak Flow Meter check? Ask your doctor for the Peak Flow Meter test when you visit his clinic. Note down your personal best on the Peak Flow Meter in consultation with your doctor. You can even consider buying your own Peak Flow Meter at your chemist.
Visit your doctor regularly
- You and your doctor have a 50:50 partnership in fighting asthma. Visit him regularly, even when you're feeling well. Don't hesitate to ask him all about the advantages of your Inhaler. Learn how to use and maintain your Inhaler properly with his help. You should never discontinue your medication on your own. Take the prescribed medication according to your doctor's recommendation.
Do undergo the tests your doctor may advise you to do and then make sure that you follow your treatment faithfully.
- Keep your medical file carefully with you so that when you visit your doctor, he can, at a glance, know your medical history. This will in turn help your doctor to >control your asthma successfully.
- Don't forget to inform your doctor about any medication you are taking. Some pain relievers can trigger asthma symptoms. So whenever you fall ill - whether it's a back pain or a fever or a cold or whatever, and especially if you are taking medication for your eyes, please inform your doctor about the medicine you are taking.
Asthma and your lifestyle
- You don't have to follow a special diet and deny yourself that ice cream or chocolate or that special treat you love. Asthma should not stop you from eating the foods you enjoy as long as you don't overdo it. Just remember to avoid foods that could trigger an allergy, like nuts or canned, bottled and packaged foods that are full of additives and preservatives. If you think you have a food allergy, contact your doctor for guidance. Click here to see how Zahaan discovered inhalation therapy and fought back.
- Everyone needs time to unwind and relax in order to lower their stress levels. You need to relax even more because stress is a common trigger in asthma.
So learn some simple relaxation techniques and make them a part of your life. Start yoga under a good teacher. Cultivate a relaxing hobby. Take a stroll in the park, watch your favourite film'. Do something that you really enjoy and which helps you to switch off from your work or the things that stress you.
- Regular exercise is good for you. Don't let your asthma stop you from taking part in any activity or exercise you enjoy. If you like doing it you'll make it a part of your lifestyle. And that will do wonders for your general health and well-being. So go ahead and get active! Just remember to consult your doctor on the exercise you plan to do and then follow his advise.
What to do during an asthma attack
If you take your Controller medicine regularly and avoid triggers, the chances of your getting an attack are low. But in case of an emergency make sure to follow these steps:
- You must sit upright and not lie down. Your clothing should be loosened. You should try to stay calm and relaxed. A relative or friend near you must also help in whatever way and give positive reassurance.
- Without delay, you must take the Reliever medicine in the dosage recommended by your doctor.
- Then wait for 5 minutes. If there is no improvement, take additional doses of the Reliever medicine as advised by your doctor.
- If you still get no relief, call your doctor immediately. It is important to remember not to exceed the dose of the Reliever medicine without consulting your doctor.
- If your doctor cannot reach you quickly you should go to the nearest hospital for emergency treatment.
Asthma in special situations
If you have asthma, it's not the end of the world. It's important to know that asthma can be controlled and you can lead a normal life. The following section will attempt to explain Asthma in special situations. Some of the topics we will touch upon are: asthma in pregnancy, asthma and lactating mothers, asthma and your job, asthma and travel, asthma and sports, asthma and smoking, asthma and complementary medicines, asthma and allergic rhinitis and so on.
- Asthma in pregnancy
- Asthma in lactating mothers
- Asthma and your job
- Asthma and travel
- Asthma and Sports
- Asthma and Allergic Rhinitis
Asthma in pregnancy:
Firstly, if you want to start a family, asthma shouldn’t stop you from getting pregnant. Secondly, if you are pregnant and have asthma, you can have a normal safe delivery. It is important that your asthma is under control with regular medication and that you take the normal precautions like any pregnant mother – your doctor will guide you best. In some cases, and if you do not take your medication regularly, asthma symptoms can worsen. The use of inhaled medicines have been proven to have no risk to the fetus.
Asthma in lactating mothers:
If you have asthma and you wish to breastfeed your baby, please do so. Asthma is not a transmitted disease. If you are already on inhalation therapy, only negligible amounts of asthma medication enter breast milk. In fact, lactating mothers all over the world who are on inhalation therapy, breastfeed their babies without any adverse side effects. Another point to note is that inhaled medication today is so safe, it can be safely used in pregnancy
Asthma and your job:
You needn’t miss work, or suffer loss of pay, if your asthma is well under control. However, people working in the jewellery business, the printing, pesticide, quarries, painting and plastic industries, chefs and bakers, solderers and metal platers, foam workers and spray painters, hair dressers and carpenters, are known to be more prone to asthma. Perhaps, it is the smell of certain chemicals or the particulate matter that could be the cause of irritation in the lungs. These are called triggers.
It is important that you know your trigger, take appropriate precautions, take your Controller correctly and regularly, and of course see your Doctor who will be in the best position to advise you.
Asthma and travel:
Asthma needn’t come in the way of your work or your travel. If your work entails you to travel frequently, always keep a copy of your doctor’s prescription handy, written instructions and your emergency contact numbers with you. And most importantly, never travel without an adequate supply of your medication – both Controllers and Relievers. You should, as you know, take your Controller regularly. In fact, we advise you to keep a spare Reliever always at hand. Do check the weather conditions before you travel and be prepared for climate changes by taking suitable clothing.Know more…
Asthma and Sports:
Asthma is not a deterrent to being a winner in sports or in life. Top cricketers have asthma, basketball players have asthma, even swimmers and runners have asthma and they have gone on to win Olympic Golds.
If you have asthma and it is well controlled, you can by all means exercise and play sports actively. It is however important that you take your Controller medicine regularly, as prescribed by your doctor. Some asthmatics benefit by using a Reliever/ Rescuer before exercising. So always keep your Reliever handy too. Don’t forget to carry extra medication, just in case. Do inform your team members, your friends, your gym instructor or your coach about what they should do in case you have an attack.
The best exercises for asthma are yoga, and sports like swimming and sprinting, since they do not involve continuous running and allow you to have breaks in between. If you are serious about exercise and sports, please consult your Doctor regularly.
Asthma and Allergic Rhinitis:
There is a strong association of asthma and Allergic rhinitis. People with allergic rhinitis complain of frequent bouts of colds with sneezing and runny nose. About 70% of patients who have asthma also have allergic rhinitis, since the nose is an extension of the respiratory tract. Usually, the nose gets affected first and then the lungs. Thus it is important to diagnose and treat allergic rhinitis in order to control asthma better.
Allergic rhinitis is a collection of symptoms which occur when one breathes in something that one is allergic to, like dust, pets, or pollen.
The symptoms are:
- Runny nose (persistent watery discharge from the nose)
- Nasal obstruction
- Nasal itching ((Itching in the nose, eyes or on the roof of the mouth)
These symptoms can occur during particular seasons of the year. This is called Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (SAR). If it occurs all year round, it is termed as Perennial Allergic Rhinitis (PAR).
It is important that you take your allergic rhinitis seriously because if it is not treated on time the asthma could get worse and cause other complications like ear infections, sinusitis….Do visit your doctor to get the correct treatment.