350 Capitol Street, Room 514 • Charleston, WV 25301-3715
Phone: (304) 356-4193 Fax: (304) 558-1553

Managing Your Asthma

Controlling your asthma symptoms and flare-ups is very important. Avoiding things that trigger or make your asthma worse is the first step to better health and better breathing. Asthma symptoms can be controlled, however, 27 West Virginians die every year from asthma - but this should never happen - NO ONE should ever die from asthma. Making smart choices for your health can be done easily, but you must make that choice.

If you have asthma or are a parent of a child with asthma there a few things that you can do to improve your health and the health of your child.

Visit your doctor yearly to check your asthma - this will help to check how bad your asthma is - which may range from "intermittent", to "mild, moderate, to severe persistent" asthma. You may need to go two times a year to check your asthma. The doctor uses these check-ups to help him choose the medications you will take to control asthma symptoms and help you figure out what makes your asthma worse. People with mild asthma can have very bad asthma attacks. Also, the doctor should have you complete an Asthma Control Test at these visits to see how well your asthma is doing at that time - its not really a test, but is a few questions on how well you are breathing.

Get an Asthma Action Plan  from your doctor - this plan will make it easier for you to control your asthma. The doctor should give you a copy.  If your child has asthma, a copy should be given to your child's school, the daycare, and to any friend or family who take care of your child - grandparents, step-parents. A printable plan is located below.

Get the flu shot every year. Also, people who take care of children with asthma should get the flu shot too. This will make it safer place because the person with asthma will not be around people who might be sick with the flu.

Take your asthma medicine daily as prescribed - medications called "controllers" must be taken every day to stop the swelling of the airways in the lungs. These drugs take time to work and must build up in the blood system for several days before they will work well.

Use a spacer with your inhaler. Spacers help you get more drug from the inhaler (puffer) when you use it (see instructions on how to use a spacer with inhaler on this site). Spacers are by doctor prescription only and can be found at your local medical equipment company or pharmacy. Some can be bought online from websites. Your doctor or pharmacist should show you how to use it. Spacers are for all ages and also can come with a mask for young children.

Have a breathing test done - The test called "Spirometry" - should be done when you are first told you have asthma and again every couple of years to check how well you get air in and out of your lungs. This test will help the doctor see how bad or how good your lungs are. Young children (6 years and younger) may not be able to do this test and will have to wait until they are older.

The doctor should provide you with and instruct you on using a peak flow meter daily at home and/or school to help you track how well you are breathing and record those numbers in a daily journal.

Know what TRIGGERS your asthma symptoms - triggers are things that make asthma worse. Triggers can be allergens such as pets and dust; or irritants - air pollution and household cleaners. Once you know what causes asthma symptoms, you will need to Remove and Avoid those triggers from the home, school, day care, or work. Use the Home Environment Asthma Checklist (see below) to help you make your home trigger free and asthma safe. Your doctor may also have you go see a doctor who will test for allergies, an Allergist sometimes called an Immunologist, who can perform allergy testing.  

Breathing well begins with you!    So Think, Breathe, and Live Wisely!    

What Does It Mean By Having My Asthma "Under Control"?  

Goals of Asthma Therapy: Controling Your Asthma

  • STOP symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath during the daytime, during the night, or after exercise; waking up at night due to asthma.
  • Not needing to use your "Quick-Relief Rescue Inhaler" (at least less than 2 days a week) Quick-relief medications also called bronchodilators are drugs such as albuterol and xopenex are for quick relief of asthma symptoms. (This may not include those with only exercise induced asthma or bronchospasm).
  • Keep lung function normal or near normal.
  • Keep normal activity levels (this includes exercise and other physical activity and attending school or work).
  • Meeting your needs with asthma care.

By Controlling My Asthma I Will:

  • Prevent recurrent asthma symptoms and minimize the need for Emergency Department visits or hospitalizations.
  • Prevent loss of lung function or breathing ability; for children - this means to prevent reduced lung growth by controlling asthma symptoms.
  • Be provided the BEST medication management with very few or no side effects from medications. 

Your Asthma Is Not Under Control If You Answer YES to Any of the Following Questions:

  • You Have Asthma Symptoms more than 2 days a week (asthma symptoms include: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, unable to do or limited in performing daily activities, etc.)
  • You Have Nightime Awakenings due to Asthma more than 2 days in the past month (you are not able to sleep through the night due to asthma symptoms) 
  • You Have to use your quick relief inhaler or nebulizer more than 2 times in the past week (some quick-relief medications include: Albuterol, Xopenex, ProAir, Maxair, Proventil, Ventolin) 
  • IF YOU ANSWERED "YES" TO ANY OF THE ABOVE - CALL YOUR PHYSICIAN OR PRIMARY CARE PROVIDER FOR AN APPOINTMENT TODAY TO ASSESS YOUR CURRENT ASTHMA MEDICATIONS, TO RE-ASSESS YOUR LEVEL OF ASTHMA SEVERITY AND ASSESS YOUR CONTROL OF YOUR ASTHMA SYMPTOMS. YOU MAY ALSO NEED TO SEE OR BE REFERRED TO A "LUNG SPECIALIST" (PULMONOLOGIST) FOR TREATMENT. 

 

So, What is My Asthma Quick List? 

  • visit your primary care physician at least twice a year to assess your asthma severity 
  • have a written Asthma Action Plan completed by your physician or primary care physician every year (especially for children) 
  • get the flu shot every year
  • have spirometry lung testing done at least once every two years
  • take your asthma medicine daily as prescribed
  • use a peak flow meter daily (especially those with Moderate and/or Severe Asthma)
  • identify what triggers your or your child's asthma and makes the symptoms worse - learn how to remove those triggers from your home, school, or work place

Key Questions You Need To Know

Here are some ideas to talk about with your doctor. Take these questions to your next asthma checkup.

What do I need to know?

  • What is asthma?
  • What makes my asthma worse? (What triggers my asthma?)
  • Can I tell if an asthma attack or episode is coming?  (What are my signs and symptoms before an asthma episode or attack?)
  • Will I always have asthma?
  • How severe is my asthma? (Are my symptoms often?)
  • Have I had a lung spirometry test to check my lung function and how well I can breathe? Have I had a spirometry test at least once in past 2 years?
  • Do I or my child need to see a "lung specialist" (pulmonologist or pediatric pulmonologist) for treatment?

How can I keep my asthma under control?

  • Do I or my child with asthma have an Asthma Action Plan?
  • How and when should I take my asthma medicines?
  • What kinds of asthma medicines am I taking (quick-relief, controller)?
  • What can I do at home, at work or school to make my asthma better? Have I made my home asthma friendly by using the "Home Environment Asthma Checklist" as a guide?
  • Do I have to limit any of my activities?
  • When should I get help from a doctor or hospital for my asthma?
  • How often should I see my doctor for asthma check-ups?

Why will this help me or my child with asthma?

  • Why do I need to keep away from my asthma triggers?
  • Why is it important to take my medicines the as prescribed?
  • What can I expect to happen if I do all, or most, of these things?
  • What can I expect to happen if I don't?
  • Does the school and daycare have a copy of my child's Asthma Action Plan?
  • Do the school nurse, coach, physical education and other teachers know how to recognize when my child is having an asthma attack or episode? Do they know what to do for my child when he or she is having an asthma attack?
  • Does my child have their asthma medications with them at school?  

 For printable Key Questions list click here.

Finding an Asthma Specialist

Listing these specific medical practices is not an endorsement of the quality of treatment to be received by the individual practice listed, but merely a list of resources for care.

Charleston Area Medical Center Pulmonary Rehabilitation Services - located in Charleston West Virginia. Nationally accredited by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. The program can help those struggling with diseases of the lungs return to a more healthy and satisfying lifestyle.

Cabell Huntington Hospital Pulmonary Rehabilitation Services - located in Huntington West Virginia. This is a multi-disciplinary program of care for patients with chronic respiratory impairment (COPD, asthma, restrictive diseases, etc.) that is individually designed to optimize physical and social performance. 

Center for Lung Health - at Cabell Huntington Hospital - WV's newest location for the management and treatment of all lung diseases 

West Virginia University Childrens Hospital - located in Morgantown West Virginia, this recently restructured Pediatric Department offers many specialty services including several board certified Pediatric Pulmonologists, Pediatric Allergists/Immunologists, and Sleep Medicine specialists.

 Asthma & Allergy Center - have 5 office locations in West Virginia, this practice offers a wide array of allergy diagnosis and treatments, spirometry lung testing and treatment of lung diseases. 

Asthma Self-Management Must Haves - Education and Prevention

Asthma Action Plan (PDF)  - a blank plan to give to your doctor to complete. 

Asthma Control Test - this short survey for adults and children with asthma aids the physician in assessing your control of your asthma. This is a fillable format to complete online and then print the results to take to your doctor.

Asthma Fast Facts for Kids (PDF)

Home Environment Asthma Checklist - Is your home "asthma friendly"? Here is an easy to follow list and suggestions to improve the air quality of your home. 

Learn about asthma

Managing Asthma while Pregnant

Prevent Allergy and Asthma Attacks at Home   

Pediatric Environmental Health Speciality Units - Resources and tools to help protect you and your child from hazards in the air, on the ground, and in the water. 

Things a family can do to get ready for an "asthma" lung doctor visit

Asthma, Health, and Vaccinations

Asthma and the Flu - get the facts about the seasonal flu, H1N1 flu, and asthma

Burn Wise -  Environmental Protection Agency program that emphasizes the importance of burning the right wood, the right way, in the right wood-burning appliance to protect your home, health, and the air we breathe.

Health Affects of Exposure to Secondhand Smoke and Children

Safe Cleaning for People with Asthma - learn safer ways to clean your home and office; home-made cleaning  

Asthma Medications Resource -

For information on medication assistance please view the links page on this site.

Asthma and other Respiratory Disease Medications Defined 

Dry Powdered Inhalers - What are they?  

List of Inhaled Medications - includes National Asthma Guidelines referencing 

Patient Aerosol Guide - this how-to education guide explains the use of all types of inhalers and nebulized medications

Making an Asthma Diagnosis

Diagnosing Asthma in Young Children

Key Reasons for Considering a Diagnosis of Asthma - from the National Institute of Health  

Precious Breathers - the Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics' special program to help you identify respiratory problems in children under 5.

Types of Lung Function Tests - spirometry testing, peak flow meters, and other tests defined

Asthma Informational Products   

Asthma Action Plan - condensed wallet size 

Tobacco Use & Asthma Trifold - Know the Risks in West Virginia! 

Smoking and your health

Asthma Links 

Ask an Allergist - This site does not answer questions about specific consumer products and provides only general advice regarding medicines and treatment approaches.

Asthma Explorers Club - a place for kids to learn about their asthma

Asthma Information for Patients and Parents of Patients

Asthma and Allergy Friendly Products - certification program to empower consumers to make an informed purchase decision when choosing allergen-avoidance products.

Asthma Moms - videos on how to control asthma at home and at school

County Health Rankings - How healthy is the county you live in? See how your county ranks in the state and nationwide.

get asthma help - asthma action plans for children and available in spanish

Health-e-kids Center for Children's Health and the Environment (MACCHE) at the Children's National Medical Center.

Healthy Children - powered by pediatricians from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

NickJr. Asthma & Kids - asthma in preschoolers, asthma activities for the kids, and resources for the parents.

Quest for the Code - interactive Asthma game available on-line (available on cd-rom) that uses 3-D graphics, animation with celebrities to help children understand and manage their asthma.

  

For basic information on asthma in spanish in printable pdf,  please view El Asma under Asthma 101 on this site. 

                                   

Note: You will need Adobe Reader (PDF) to view some these documents. Download the software here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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