With World Asthma Day on the 1st of May, now is a fantastic opportunity to double check you are managing your asthma as best as you possibly can.
Below are a few key pointers you can use to make sure you have good asthma control:
1. Know what it means to have well-controlled asthma (and how it feels!) Living with asthma should not mean having to put up with coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath on a daily basis. A study of Australian adults with asthma found that 45% have symptoms which are “not well controlled”, including 23% who were “very poorly controlled”. The good news is that, for the vast majority of people, it is possible to achieve good asthma control.
Good asthma control means: During the previous four weeks:
You have experienced daytime symptoms less than two days per week which are short-lasting and rapidly relieved by the use of a reliever puffer; and
There has been no limitation to your lifestyle; and
You have no symptoms during the night or upon waking; and
You are not needing a reliever puffer more than twice per week.
You can rate your Asthma Control Score yourself, using an online questionnaire such as the one available on the Asthma Australia website, or you can speak to your GP or pharmacist.
Note that scoring asthma control is different to assessing severity – it is possible for people with even mild asthma to actually have quite poor asthma control, and hence more chance of a flare-up. Achieving an improvement in asthma control will greatly improve your quality of life and ability to enjoy your day-to-day activities.
2. Know your medicines It is common for people with asthma to be taking more than one inhaled medication to treat their condition, and sometimes tablets as well.
It is important to use each medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Generally, preventative-type medicines should be used every day, even when you feel well, in order to decrease the chance of a flare-up occurring.
One easy way to clarify the instructions for each medicine is to ask your doctor for a personalised Asthma Action Plan which spells out how to take your medicines, and what to do when your asthma symptoms start to flare-up. You can also check out the information about your medicines within the MedAdvisor app, or speak to your pharmacist.
3. Use your inhalers correctly Did you know that up to 90% of people with asthma use their inhalers incorrectly? This means you risk getting less benefit (and possibly more side effects) from these important medicines. To see how to properly use your inhaler, take a look at the “How-to” videos available on the National Asthma Council website.
Often poor inhaler technique can creep in over time, so even if you have used the same medicines for years it’s a good idea to get it checked. Your pharmacist can observe you using your inhaler to take a dose of your medicine and offer little tips or pointers to perfect your technique. Simply ask your pharmacist next time you visit your local pharmacy. It could even help you to breathe a little easier!
This post was written by Kylie Lucas. Kylie has been a pharmacist for over 10 years and works in a country town pharmacy in the south west of Western Australia. She lives on a farm with her husband, daughter and lots of pet animals.