Seven Common Errors for those with Asthma

What are some common errors that people with asthma make?

  • Stopping controller medicines. Continue a controller medicine when you feel well. Controller medicines prevent asthma symptoms from coming back. Stopping or skipping doses often causes asthma to flare.   
  • Forgetting to take controller medicine. It can be difficult remembering medicine. Place medicine near something used the same time each day. Put the medicine on the breakfast table, by a school backpack, or near your keys. Find something that works for you.
  • Not having an asthma action plan. Action plans have three sections. Section one has everyday instructions for breathing your best. Section two advises you what to do when asthma flares start. Following instructions keeps symptoms from worsening. Section three gives signals asthma needs urgent care. Your family and friends should also know these signals too.
  • Underestimating asthma. Asthma attacks can be dangerous. Attacks usually don’t go away by themselves. Knowing what to do can save lives. Know the signals of a serious attack.  If your breathing is so difficult that:
    • You have trouble catching your breath.
    • Your peak flow reading half that of normal (red zone).
    • You can’t walk short distances.
    • Your fingers or lips are turning blue.
    • You are drowsy or confused.
  • Not telling doctors about asthma symptoms. People accept wheezing and chest tightness as a way of life. See your doctor at least once a year. Talk frankly.  Your medicine may need to be adjusted if:
    • You have symptoms more than twice a week. 
    • Asthma keeps you from activities you want to do.
    • Asthma wakes you up more than twice a month.
  • Not breathing in medicine correctly. For medicine to reach the lungs, inhalers need to be used just right. Show your pharmacist how you breathe in your medicine. They can give tips to get the most from your medicine.
  • Running out of medicine. Refilling medicine on-time is important. Watch the counter on your inhaler. Order medicine three to five days before running out. The pharmacist may need that time to reach your doctor. Work with your pharmacist. Some pharmacies remind you of refills each month.

With a good treatment plan and the right medicine, asthma attacks are rare and mild for most. Should coughing or wheezing start, follow your asthma action plan. Knowing what to do can prevent urgent doctor or hospital visits. 

Theresa R. Prosser, Pharm.D., BCPS, AE-C, FCCP, professor of pharmacy practice

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