World Asthma Day: You Can Control Your Asthma, You Can Prepare for Emergencies

World Asthma Day: You Can Control Your Asthma, You Can Prepare for Emergencies

world asthma dayWorld Asthma Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world. World Asthma Day  takes place each year on the first Tuesday of May, falling on May 6th, 2014 this year.

The first World Asthma Day, in 1998, was celebrated in more than 35 countries. Participation has increased with each World Asthma Day since then, making it one of the world’s most important asthma awareness and education events. The theme for 2014 is “You Can Control Your Asthma.”

You Can Control Your Asthma

Asthma does not have to control your life.  Asthma does not have to limit your life.  With treatment, you can achieve good control of your asthma.

What is Asthma Control?

When your asthma is under control, you can:

  • Have a productive, physically active life.  You can work and go to school.  You can exercise and participate in normal physical activities.
  • Avoid troublesome symptoms day and night.  Your day is not interrupted by breathing problems.  You do not wake up at night or lose sleep because of asthma symptoms.
  • Avoid most asthma attacks.  Asthma attacks are very rare when asthma is under control.  Good asthma control means you are unlikely to have to visit the emergency department or be hospitalized for asthma.
  • Use little or no fast-acting reliever or “rescue” medication.
  • Have normal or near-normal lung function.  Lung function can be monitored with spirometry or a peak expiratory flow (PEF).
  • Avoid most side effects from treatment.  Many options are available for asthma treatment.  Your doctor can help you find the one that works best for you

How to Control Your Asthma

Take your asthma medications the way your doctor says to take them. Most people with asthma need two kinds of medication:

  • A quick-acting reliever or “rescue” medication that you take when needed to stop asthma symptoms.
  • A controller medication that you take every day to prevent asthma symptoms. 

Know the causes of your asthma symptoms and how to respond to them. Each person with asthma reacts to a different set of risk factors.

  • Take steps to avoid causes of asthma symptoms such as animals with fur, dust, strong smells and sprays, pollen from trees and flowers, and cigarette and fireplace smoke.
  • Your doctor may tell you to take medication before exercising or working hard, if these activities cause asthma symptoms for you. 

Work with your doctor to control your asthma. Your doctor is your partner in achieving and maintaining asthma control.

  • Go to the doctor 2 or 3 times a year for check-ups, even if you feel fine and have no breathing problems.
  • Ask questions.
  • Make sure you understand how and when to take your medications. 

Act quickly to treat asthma attacks.

  • Know the signs your asthma is getting worse, how to react, and when to seek medical help.
  • After an asthma attack, review your medication plan with your doctor and plan how to prevent future attacks.

You Can Prepare for an Asthma Emergency

Anyone with asthma should be prepared for an emergency.  Even if you’ve kept your asthma under control for years, it could still get worse without you realizing it.  Knowing the symptoms of an asthma emergency,  how to monitor your asthma, and when to seek asthma emergency treatment could save your life.

Symptoms of an Asthma Emergency

These are symptoms of an asthma attack that requires emergency treatment:

  • Feeling out of breath, even when you’re not moving
  • Trouble walking, talking, or doing normal activities
  • Anxiety
  • Not feeling better after using your rescue inhaler
  • Peak flow readings of less than 50% of your personal best
  • Bluish lips and fingernails
  • Exhaustion or confusion
  • The skin around your ribs looking “sucked in” (especially in children)
  • Unconsciousness

Prepare for an Asthma Attack

  • Know your triggers. Whether it’s a certain situation or time of year, knowing your triggers is essential to managing your asthma. Some common triggers include cat dander, smoke, seasonal allergies, and respiratory infections.
  • Share your asthma action plan. Tell people who spend time with you, such as co-workers and family members, where you keep your action plan and what they should do in an emergency.
  • Keep rescue medications accessible. Always have an albuterol inhaler on hand.  Place these “rescue inhalers” in a variety of locations so you can get to them easily: in your gym bag, at work, and in several places at home.  If there are other rescue medications that you need during an asthma attack, such as steroid tablets, keep those with you as well.
  • Wear an asthma medical ID bracelet at all times.  Asthma can be a tricky and rather deceptive condition to have, primarily because a variety of environmental factors can trigger an asthma attack.  Symptoms of an asthma emergency present in many different ways,  and many people, doctors included, believe that you must have audible wheezing instead of considering diminished breathing sounds as well, so asthma may not be the first thing the emergency workers think of.  If you are unable to communicate your needs in an emergency, an asthma bracelet could make the difference in getting the treatment you need.  Always ensure that you or your loved one is wearing an asthma bracelet at all times and especially before leaving the house. If necessary, pack an extra bracelet during special trips, particularly if you will be travelling alone or will be leaving town for a long period of time. Always wear the bracelet where it can be spotted easily and avoid taking it off. Great new designs won’t cramp your style and it can mean the difference between living a healthy life and suffering major medical consequences.
  • Write down important phone numbers. Your asthma action plan should include the phone numbers of your doctor’s office and the closest emergency room, as well as people to notify when you have an asthma attack, such as your spouse, parents, or close friends.  Keep a card with this information written on it in your wallet or purse.
  • Know when to ask for help. If you have followed the action plan agreed upon by you and your doctor and have taken your medications as prescribed, but your symptoms are not going away, ask for additional help from your health care provider.

Visit Global Initiative For Asthma (GINA) website or facebook page for more information on World Asthma Day and to find out how you can help.

Sources:  GINA, WebMD, Everyday Health

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