1. Understanding AsthmaThe first step in dealing with your new diagnosis is knowing how to recognize asthma symptoms, identify asthma triggers and know when to see your doctor.
Start with the Basics of Asthma to understand what is going on in the body when someone has asthma.
2. Know Which Asthma Medicine to UseTwo main types of medications are used to treat asthma: rescue medications and controller medications. Rescue medications give immediate relief for asthma symptoms, but do not treat the underlying inflammation in asthma. Controller therapies treat the underlying inflammation in asthma, helping to reduce symptoms over the long run, but do not help symptoms immediately.
Find out more about the types of medications used in asthma, and which types you may have been prescribed.
Learn how to use an MDI (metered dose inhaler).
Learn how to use a nebulizer.
For controller medications, there are numerous new devices on the market, such as Advair, Asmanex, Pulmicort, Foradil and Spiriva. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to demonstrate the correct technique of these inhaler devices.
In general, it is always a good idea to rinse your mouth and/or brush your teeth after the use of various inhaler medications, especially if the medication is an inhaled steroid (controller therapies).
3. Find Out If Your Asthma Is ControlledMost people, as well as their doctors, underestimate the severity of their asthma, and therefore most asthmatics are under-treated. Under-treatment of asthma can lead to severe complications, including reduced lung function, emergency room visits/hospitalizations for asthma, and potentially asthma-related deaths. Don’t let these complications happen to you! Answer a few brief questions to find out if your asthma is controlled! Take the results to your doctor (or your child’s doctor).
4. See An Allergist About Your AsthmaAsk your physician to refer you to see an allergist. An allergist is a specialty physician trained in the treatment of allergies and asthma. Since the majority of asthma is influenced by allergies, an allergist is the most qualified expert to help people manage their asthma.
5. Perform Spirometry For Your AsthmaSpirometry is a method of testing the amount of lung function a person has. It is a very important part of the diagnosis and treatment of asthma. All people with asthma (at least in children over the age of 6 years) should have spirometry performed annually, and more often if their asthma is severe or to assess a response to therapy. It is considered the “standard of care” to have spirometry performed in all asthmatics every year (and is NOT the same as hand-held peak flow measurements).
Since spirometry may identify problems with a person’s asthma even before symptoms occur, this test is important to check in an asthmatic, even if they don’t have symptoms. It is unfortunate that many asthmatics do not have this simple test performed – so insist that your doctor perform this test for you at least every year. If your doctor cannot perform or interpret this test, ask to see an allergist!