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Asthma

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties. It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults. There's currently no cure, but there are simple treatments that can help keep the symptoms under control so that the impact on your life is reduced.

MANAGING YOUR ASTHMA

Asthma symptoms include coughing,  a wheeze, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Symptoms can be triggered by factors such as exercise, exposure to an irritant or allergen, changes in weather, and viral respiratory infections such as cold or flu. Symptoms may be able to resolve themselves or may require medication. Symptoms may sometimes be absent for weeks or months at a time.

Several other conditions can cause similar symptoms, so it's important to get a proper diagnosis and the correct treatment if you have any of these symptoms.

Asthma is usually treated by using an inhaler, a small device that lets you breathe in medicines. The main types are:

  • Reliever inhalers – used when needed to quickly relieve asthma symptoms for a short time
  • Preventer inhalers – used every day to prevent asthma symptoms occurring

Some people also need to take tablets

Getting into a good routine and managing your asthma well means:

  • You get no daytime symptoms
  • You get no night-time waking due to asthma
  • You don’t need to use reliever inhalers (usually blue)
  • You don’t have any asthma attacks and don’t need emergency treatment
  • Your lungs don’t suffer long-term damage
  • Asthma doesn’t limit your daily life (including working and exercising).

The following steps will help you to manage your asthma well:

Use an asthma action plan to stay on top of symptoms – This will mean you are better equipped to manage your symptoms, and so you’re less likely to end up in hospital with your asthma. An asthma action plan has all the information you need in one place. It reminds you how to look after your asthma every day and it tells you what to do if your asthma gets worse.

Take your preventer inhaler every day even if you feel well - Your preventer medicine builds up protection over time. It stops your airways from getting inflamed, which means you’re less likely to react to your triggers. Sticking to a good routine of taking your preventer as prescribed will cut your risk of symptoms and an asthma attack. It could mean you stay symptom-free, so you can get on with what you want to do in life without asthma getting in the way.

Carry your reliever inhaler with you everywhere – This will enable you to deal with unexpected symptoms quickly. Your action plan can help you spot any symptoms that show your asthma is getting worse. If you act quickly you can reduce the risk of an asthma attack. If you’re increasing the use of your reliever inhaler, this can be a sign that your asthma is getting worse, and you need to see your GP, pharmacist or asthma nurse.

Check your inhaler technique - There are so many different types of inhaler out there it can be hard to know if you’re using yours in the right way. Good inhaler technique makes a big difference to how much medicine gets into your airways where it’s needed. If you get it right, you should notice fewer symptoms. Taking your inhaler in the right way also means you can help prevent side effects from the medicine staying in your mouth. Ask your pharmacist or asthma nurse to check your technique for you each time you go for your asthma review.

Go for an annual asthma review - A once-a-year asthma review is a chance to update your asthma action plan and get your inhaler technique checked. You can make sure you’re taking the right medicines at the right doses to keep your symptoms under control. It’s worth going even if you’re feeling well with your asthma, so you can make sure you’re still doing all the right things to reduce the risk of an asthma attack.

Other things you can do to help manage your asthma

If you smoke, get support to quit. Smoking will make asthma symptoms worse and puts you at much higher risk of an asthma attack. It also means your asthma medicines won’t work as well.

If you know you’re overweight, losing some weight can make a real difference to your asthma and how well you can manage it.

Getting active is good for your asthma, improving stamina and helping your lungs work better. It’s also good for boosting your immune system, so you’ve got some defence against colds and viruses which are asthma triggers.

Even if you have mild asthma, flu can trigger asthma symptoms and put you at risk of an asthma attack. You can support your asthma management by getting the flu vaccine every autumn so you’re ready for flu season.

If you have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, you have severe asthma, or you are now eligible you should be invited to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Page last updated – May 2021

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