It’s World Asthma Day. I’ve had asthma for as long as I can remember. I’ve had a couple of uncontrolled periods where it severely limited my day to day life and I became good friends with daytime TV, but, for the most part, I haven’t let it get in the way of living. Here’s 10 ways I’ve learnt to manage asthma:
- Take inhalers and medication every day. It sounds really simple, but apparently lots of people don’t. Set alarms on your phone to remind you if you’re likely to forget. Set up electronic prescriptions with your GP and pharmacy so that you can order them online if getting to the surgery is difficult.
- Carry your inhalers with you, particularly your reliever. Again, it sounds quite simple. But lots of asthmatics don’t because they assume an asthma attack won’t happen to them/their asthma is ‘fine’/they don’t have anywhere to put it. Asthma attacks can happen to anyone, your asthma is fine *because* you’re taking your medications and find somewhere to put it! Ventolins (the blue one) tuck down waistbands of trousers/skirts really easily, if you don’t have pockets. Buy a small bag! I bet you take your mobile phone everywhere, which is roughly the same length as a ventolin…
- Get to know your symptoms. It takes time to get familiar with them, but it’s worth it. You can use your peak flow metre to help keep a diary of symptoms. There are lots of apps to help keep track- I’ve used AsthmaMD in the past and the Apple Health app installed on newer iPhones has a tab for recording peak flow results now too.
- Get to know your triggers. Once you know what they are, you can try to avoid them a bit. Dust is one of mine, so I go to another room when my husband does the hoovering. Aerosols are another, so I wear roll-on deodorant. It doesn’t mean you should live in a bubble, but just be aware.
- Go to your GP or asthma nurse for your asthma review. It might feel like a waste of time, but they can make sure you’re not falling into bad habits with inhaler technique and update or change your medication.
- Learn what to do in an emergency. Do you know what your protocol is? Are you on the SMART plan? Do you know when you should go to your GP/A&E/call 999? If not, ask your GP or asthma nurse or visit/call Asthma UK. It’s better to be over-prepared as getting anxious will make the attack worse. The Apple Health app has an emergency section which can be accessed by paramedics without the passcode from your iPhone lockscreen. Put your info in there including next of kin and medications, because it helps conserve breath when trying to communicate information to people in the event of an attack.
- Carry a scarf with you. In the Winter, I take a thick wool one, in the Summer a lightweight one. That way, if I come into contact with a trigger, I wear it over my mouth and nose. If it’s cold, it helps to warm up the air before you breathe it in. At other times of the year, I put it on if I see builders creating dust, if I’m walking next to a busy road (pollution) or if there’s lots of smokers.
- If you have long hair, tie it back in Summer or if you’ve been in contact with dust. It stops the pollen/dust being around your face quite so much. If you’re able to clean your house without triggering your asthma, tie your hair back and change your clothes afterwards.
- Try to exercise your lungs. Sometimes, you might not be able to do ‘normal’ exercise, like if you have a chest infection. When I had respiratory physio, one of the things I was told to do every day regardless was to practise good breathing through exercises or meditation/yoga. Walking and singing are also good if you’re not able to do cardio.
- Tell people about it. Be practical about avoiding triggers, but if there’s something that someone at work or school could do to help, then ask. People are a lot more accommodating than you’d think and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, another asthmatic will probably be grateful! You don’t have to make a big deal out of it, but perfume-less offices and after-hours cleaning schedules are becoming the norm in workplaces.
Photo: Asthma UK