If you have asthma or if you’re caring for somebody who has asthma, you know that flare-ups tend to spike in the fall. But with a little guidance you can get through these trigger months with fewer problems. Here are four strategies to try.
1. Keep those well checks with your doctor
Asthma-related emergency department visits cost billions annually in the U.S., with the average visit running about $1,300, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Not only are these visits expensive but they also reflect a lack of asthma control. That is why it is of utmost importance to keep those well checks with your doctor.
Your asthma specialist can catch changes in your airway function through pulmonary function tests and adjust your medications as needed to prevent any emergencies from occurring. Your doctor can also catch and treat infections that could lead to major problems for your asthma down the road.
2. Know your triggers
What can trigger an asthma attack? For most people that list includes allergies, environmental chemicals (from cleaning agents to perfume), cold air, exercise, and upper respiratory infections.
Once you have worked with your specialist to determine what your main triggers are, he or she can help you find ways to avoid them. This could mean using dust mite covers on your pillows, covering your mouth and nose with a scarf before heading out into the cold air, pre-treating with albuterol before exercise, or even using newer medications like Xolair for severe allergic asthma.
3. Stay on top of your medications
Keeping on top of control medications and always having a rescue inhaler with you can go a long way toward preventing emergency issues with your asthma. Sadly, many people don’t use their medications correctly.
Be sure to get a good lesson from your specialist on the right way to use your inhaler if you have any confusion. Keep track of when medications need to be refilled, and make sure that your child has medication and an asthma action plan at school.
4. Keep track of subtle signs
One of the best things we have done to to help prevent our girls from having flare-ups is to monitor their peak flow and oxygen levels through the use of a finger pulse oxygen monitor and peak flow monitor.
While these may seem like simple tools they can give you big clues as to how you or your child is breathing. Talk with your doctor about what levels should be normal for you, when it’s an emergency, and when to come in for a visit.
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.