8 Mistakes People With Asthma Make

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Receiving an asthma diagnosis can be disheartening because the condition requires a lifetime of management. For parents, helping a child control his or her asthma can feel all-consuming. But knowing the facts about asthma can help you feel more hopeful and in control. Remember that many people—including athletes—live long, healthy lives with asthma. They prove it is possible to achieve a high quality of life when you adhere to a treatment plan and avoid some of these common asthma mistakes.

  • 1
    Not having a written asthma action plan.
    Older woman writing

    Every person with asthma (or a child’s parents) should develop a written asthma action plan with his or her doctor. This plan lists emergency contact information, medication instructions, and a place to record your personal best peak flow rates. Typically the action plan is divided into three zones—green, yellow and red—that tell what to do when your asthma is controlled, flaring or deteriorating into an emergency situation. The action plan should be readily accessible at home, work and school to make managing your condition easier.

  • 2
    Failing to regularly check peak flow rates.
    peak flow meter for asthma

    The peak flow meter is a hand-held device that measures how much air you can exhale in a single burst. This volume is recorded as a number that represents liters per minute. Your doctor will tell you how to find your personal best peak flow rate. Later measurements reflect a percentage of your personal best. If you notice your peak flow trending downward from 100% of your personal best, you should see your doctor to have your asthma re-evaluated. A peak flow rate of less than 50% of your personal best represents a medical emergency that requires immediate intervention.

  • 3
    Using asthma inhalers incorrectly.

    Asthma treatment usually involves taking an inhaled medication, and all people with asthma should carry a fast-acting “rescue” inhaler, as well. It’s crucial to master the inhaler technique so you receive the full benefit of the medication. To properly use an inhaler, you should remove the cap and shake the inhaler, exhale fully, place the mouthpiece into your mouth and push down on the inhaler to release the medication, then inhale slowly and deeply for 3 to 5 seconds. Hold your breath for about 10 more seconds. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you if you’re using an inhaler correctly.

  • 4
    Not exercising.
    group of women lifting small weights

    Because exercise can make asthma symptoms worse, some people label exercise as a “trigger” and avoid it. However, exercise confers a wealth of health benefits that should not be set aside due to breathing issues. Exercise also can help you avoid developing conditions like sleep apnea due to obesity that make asthma worse. If your regular treatment regimen does not allow you to exercise moderately without wheezing, you should follow up with your doctor to develop a plan that controls your asthma during exercise. This might include adding medications, warming up to exercise slowly, or wearing a face mask on cold days.

  • 5
    Not avoiding asthma triggers.

    Asthma triggers are highly individualized. For some people, pets and asthma are the combination to avoid. For others, the issue may be dust and asthma. You should record the factors you observe to make your asthma worse and then avoid them. Pollen and asthma can be a dangerous combination, but who can avoid going outdoors during pollen season? To help avoid the effects of pollen, talk to your doctor about ways to treat your seasonal allergies in order to minimize any asthma flares.

  • 6
    Not treating other medical conditions that may make asthma worse.
    Woman with insomnia

    Environmental triggers aren’t the only thing that can make your asthma worse. Several medical conditions also can exacerbate asthma symptoms. Reflux disease, sinus troubles, a constantly runny nose, sleep apnea, and even stress all can make your asthma flare up. It’s important to treat these other conditions as a part of your overall asthma care plan. Your doctor may want you to take an antacid medication, for example, to control reflux, or you may need to lose a few pounds to reduce your risk of sleep apnea. For the best asthma control, treat more than just your lung symptoms.

  • 7
    Stopping asthma medications during pregnancy.
    Pregnant woman with doctor

    When women become pregnant, they often become hesitant to take medications that could affect their developing baby. It’s natural to want to protect the baby’s health. However, stopping asthma medications during pregnancy can be a poor choice because a serious asthma flare could jeopardize the health of both mother and baby. Instead, you should consult an allergist about your options for controlling your asthma as part of a healthy pregnancy.

  • 8
    Not intervening quickly enough when symptoms develop.
    Child struggling to breathe

    Asthma can become life-threatening quickly, especially in young children. However, after you have seen or experienced an acute asthma attack a few times it can be easy to brush off the symptoms as “nothing unusual.” Staying vigilant is a better approach. Keep your (or your child’s) asthma action plan and a peak flow meter handy at all times. If the person with asthma suddenly has trouble breathing, start taking peak flow readings every few minutes, as you move through the action plan. Remember, if peak flow dips below 50%, it’s time to call for emergency medical assistance.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Sep 16
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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