How to Manage Your Asthma
Once you are diagnosed with asthma, it is important to take the following steps:
- Work with your doctor to get your asthma under control.
- Follow your written Asthma Action Plan (provided by your doctor).
- Avoid your asthma triggers.
- Use your asthma medications as prescribed.
Follow your written Asthma Action Plan
An asthma action plan is a personalized written set of instructions from your doctor showing you what medications to take based on how you are feeling (your symptoms) and sometimes based on peak flow meter readings.
The Asthma Action Plan lists which medications to take when you are feeling well and have no regular asthma symptoms (green zone). It lists which medications to take when your asthma is starting to get out of control (yellow zone). If you are in the red zone, this means it is an asthma emergency and you should get to a hospital.
The Asthma Action Plan shows you how to make doctor-approved changes to your medications more quickly than if you were to make an appointment with your doctor each time. Studies show that people who use their Asthma Action Plan have better asthma control.
Your Asthma Action Plan tells you:
- What symptoms you should watch for
- What your symptoms mean
- How to adjust your medication according to your symptoms
- When to call the doctor or 911
If you don’t have an Asthma Action Plan, print one out and ask your doctor to fill it in. Your doctor can explain what you should do if you are running into problems with your asthma. Make sure you understand what the plan says. If you have any questions, ask your doctor.
Download or order your Asthma Action Plan →
An asthma diary can help you monitor your asthma. You can use it to track:
- asthma symptoms
- medication use
- peak flow meter readings
- asthma triggers
By tracking this information, you and your health care provider will get a good picture of the level of control of your asthma. If your asthma is not under control, the diary can help you find out possible reasons.
Download or order your asthma diary card →
Peak Flow Meter
Although using a peak flow meter is not necessary for everyone, your health care provider may suggest you use one to help track changes in your asthma. A peak flow meter is a hand-held device that you blow into to get a reading of how quickly you can breathe out the air from your lungs. This is known as your “peak flow rate.”
Using a peak flow meter is easy and should only take about a minute. Here is how to use a peak flow meter:
- Set the arrow to zero on the meter’s scale
- Sit up straight or stand for best results and slowly take in a big deep breath
- Place the mouthpiece in your mouth, sealing your lips tightly around it and blow out as hard and fast as possible for just a second
- Record the number
- Repeat the process two more times, recording the highest of your three values in your diary card (do not average the readings)
Use your asthma diary to keep a record of your peak flow rates in table format or plot them out on graph form. Doing a graph helps you see trends occurring over the day or over several days.
How often should you take peak flow measurements?
Peak flow readings can be taken on a regular basis or only at certain times. Regular monitoring may be useful when you are first diagnosed with asthma to determine your normal peak flow rates. Regular monitoring is also important when your asthma is unstable, or for those who do not notice symptoms when their asthma starts getting out of control. If your peak flow rate has dropped below your normal, you can act quickly to get control before it becomes serious.