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Asthma: Gaining & Maintaining Control

By Diane Bowman, CMA, CompassDirect Healthcare

The Disease Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by inflammation (swelling) of the membranes and narrowing of the airways. One of the most common forms of asthma is allergic asthma, where symptoms are a result of exposure to allergens. Other types of asthma include non-allergic asthma and exercise-induced asthma.


During our current COVID-19 outbreak, it is important than ever to gain and maintain control of your asthma and we are here to help you.

What does it mean to have controlled asthma? A person with controlled asthma

· Has few or no symptoms

· Does  not wake up at night with symptoms

· Does not need to miss work or school due to asthma symptoms

· Is able to be physically active

· Does not need to visit the ER or the hospital for asthma treatment

Ultimately, sufficient control of asthma allows an asthmatic to live a normal, active life. One significant area of asthma control is your ability to exercise without symptoms. Physical exercise is vital for your overall health. If you routinely say “I can’t do that, I have asthma,” schedule an appointment with your provider to evaluate your asthma control.

Controlling asthma requires some knowledge and a few tools.

Things to know:

· Your triggers

· Your medications

Tools you may need:

· An asthma action plan

· A peak flow meter (Peak flow meters measure how fast air is expelled from your lungs when you exhale forcefully after inhaling fully)

· An oximeter (Measures your oxygen level)

Know your triggers.

One way to learn your triggers is to have allergy testing completed. This is now included in your membership, without an extra fee. We have added this typically expensive option to equip our members with extra information to help you stay healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak. Another way to know triggers is through simple observation of when symptoms worsen. For example, if you find yourself remembering to refill your rescue medication every June, you might want to consider what is happening at that time of year that may be the cause of your symptoms. (In this case, if you live anywhere near Ellensburg,  it might be an allergy to timothy hay.)

Know your medications.

This is critical. You need to know what each of your medications do in order to receive the most benefit from them. Many asthmatics need a long-term control medication. Long-term control medications must be taken consistently to do their job, which is to decrease the swelling or inflammation in your lungs. You will not feel their effects quickly like you should with quick relief medications such as albuterol. Your quick relief medication works much faster but only has short term effects. Its job is to relax the muscles that narrow your airways during an acute attack.

GREEN is the zone you want to live in and means that:

· You don’t have cough, wheezing, chest tightness, or trouble breathing at any time.

·  You can do all the things you usually do.

·  Your peak flow is more than 80 percent or more of your best peak flow.

·  Continue taking your long-term control medicine.

When you are in your YELLOW zone

·  You have some cough, wheezing, chest tightness, or trouble breathing. Or

·  You wake up at night because of asthma. Or

· You can’t do some of the things you usually do. Or

·  Your peak flow is half to three quarters of your best peak flow. Add your quick-relief medicine and continue your long-term control medicine.

·  If your symptoms get better after an hour keep checking them and continue your long-term control medicine.

In your RED zone

· You have a lot of trouble breathing. Or

· Your quick-relief medicines don’t help. Or

· You can’t do any of the things you usually do. Or

· You were in the yellow zone for 24 hours and you’re not getting better. Or

· Your peak flow is less than half of your best peak flow.

· Add the other medicines your doctor has prescribed and call your doctor.

· If your symptoms don’t get better and you can’t reach your doctor, go to the hospital.

These plans work best when they are personalized and are available at the clinic on paper or digitally through multiple apps such as AsthmaMD. AsthmaMD offers an interactive asthma action plan including medication reminders and allows you to sync your asthma data to your chart at CompassDirect.

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