Asthma Control - How to Know If You Have It

  • Asthma research and awareness groups, as well as doctors everywhere, tell us that the ultimate goal of asthma treatment and management is "asthma control." But it's a fact that many people say their asthma is under control, even if it clearly is not.


    They might be in denial, not wanting to admit to themselves or their doctors how bad things really are. Or they might be concerned with medical costs and not want to incur any additional expenses for new medicine or other types of treatments.


    But the most common reason just might be that you don't actually realize that the symptoms you are having mean your asthma is not under control. You might think the way you feel is just a "normal" part of having this chronic disease, one of the challenges you must live with. But that is definitely not true.

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    Almost every person with asthma should, realistically, be able to achieve positive asthma control most of the time. There are so many treatment options available now that, sooner or later, you and your doctor working together should be able to find the right combination of treatments for you.


    Recognizing Asthma Control (or the Lack Thereof)


    The good news is, there are a series of 5 simple checks you can use right now to determine how well controlled your asthma is. Each check is a question that has something to do with asthma control or asthma symptoms. You pick from a multiple choice set of answers and the resulting score will give you a good idea of where you are on a sliding scale for degree of asthma control.


    Here are the 5 questions:

    • In the past 4 weeks, how much of the time did your asthma keep you from getting as much done at work, school or at home?
    • During the past 4 weeks, how often have you had shortness of breath?
    • During the past 4 weeks, how often did your asthma symptoms (wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain) wake you up at night or earlier than usual in the morning?
    • During the past 4 weeks, how often have you used your rescue inhaler or nebulizer medication (such as albuterol)?
    • How would you rate your asthma control during the past 4 weeks?

    You can take this asthma control test right now on this website (new tab/window will open) by clicking the link. Each time you answer one of the questions, your score will update and at the end, you'll receive a total score, summary of what it means and recommendations.


    The factors that this test asks about are telltale symptoms that asthma control is slipping.


    Peak Flow Meters Offer Early Detection


    Another way to measure your degree of asthma control is with a device called a peak flow meter. Most people with asthma that is being actively treated should be familiar with this device. It's a small tube that you breathe into that measures various aspects of your airway function, based on the forcefulness of your breath.


    A peak flow meter often picks up problems with asthma control before you even notice you are having symptoms. Here's a great article by Rick Frea on using a peak flow meter: Your Peak Flow Meter Is an Important Tool


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    Talk with your doctor about the peak flow scores you should be aiming for and what to do if you miss the mark. Having a written Asthma Action Plan that spells all this out is another essential tool in maintaining asthma control.


    Tips for Achieving and Maintaining Asthma Control


    First off, raise your expectations about a life with asthma! You don't have to put up with asthma symptoms. You can stay healthy and active. Here are a few tips that will help you get your asthma under control every day and for many years to come.


    1. Work closely with your doctor. Keep him/her updated on your symptoms, perceived control, response to medications and triggers and so on. Asthma can change over time, so what works today might not work as well 3 years from now. Also new treatments are always emerging and your doctor, especially if he or she is a specialist, is more likely to know what's new and what might work for you. As recommended above, work with your doctor to develop an Asthma Action Plan that makes sense for you and to you.


    2. Take your medications exactly as they are prescribed. Your doctor has figured out what dose and frequency you need to achieve control. Just because you're feeling great doesn't mean you no longer need to use your medicine. More likely, it means the medicine is doing its job!


    3. Watch your asthma to detect when control is slipping and then act fast, according to your Action Plan (see above). Prevent the loss of control from getting worse if you can.


    In Summary


    Asthma control is a realistic goal for nearly every person who has asthma. Believe in it and work toward it and you will have a long, healthy life. Asthma does not have to hold you back!

Published On: July 09, 2013