Stay one step ahead of asthma by taking medications regularly, as prescribed
GEHA | March 4, 2021
Tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing – these symptoms can be terrifying when you are having an asthma attack. Fortunately, asthma can be managed by following an action plan and taking medication regularly.
Asthma occurs when the airways that carry air into and away from your lungs narrow. More than 26 million Americans have asthma, including one in 12 children, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The two most common types of asthma medicine are relievers and preventers. A reliever opens the airways and provides immediate relief. This is what you want to use during an asthma attack or emergency.
If you find yourself using a reliever inhaler more than two or three times a week for asthma symptoms not tied to exercise, talk to your doctor. Overusing a reliever may lead to side effects, such as trembling and a rapid heart rate. Frequent reliever use may also mean your asthma isn’t being controlled properly. If this is the case, it may be time to revisit your asthma action plan.
Preventer medicines make the airways less delicate and decreases swelling and inflammation. Preventer medication should be taken daily to remain effective. Because the medicine goes straight to the lungs, the risk of side effects is very low. Most adults can control their asthma with a regular, daily dose of preventer medicine from their inhaler.
Consistently taking your asthma medications can be tough. It is easy to forget when there are no symptoms. Here are some methods that may help:
- Talk with your doctor about how the medication works and ask for written instructions on how and when to use them with your asthma action plan.
- Know the side effects, so you will be aware of what’s normal. Talk to your doctor about any concerns.
- Ask if your meds can be simplified. There may be a way to use the same kind of device for everything you currently take.
- If you aren’t comfortable with an inhaler, ask your doctor if there are any special aids that can help.
- Check with your doctor to make sure you are using your device properly.
- Make taking medication part of your routine, such as taking it when you brush your teeth at the beginning or end of the day.
Managing asthma is different for everyone. If you haven’t already, work with your doctor to develop an individual action plan. This plan can be kept in a billfold, purse or app and may need to be adjusted over time.
A comprehensive asthma action plan should include:
- A list of regular medications and how often you should take them.
- Tell-tale signs of a flare-up and what you should do to manage the condition.
- Symptoms of a serious attack that needs urgent medical attention and information on what to do in that situation.
Your primary care physician is a key ally in managing not only asthma, but your overall health. GEHA has tips for finding the right doctor and tools to find an in-network provider near you.
“Managing asthma.”newsinhealth.nih.gov, National Institutes of Health, June 2014.
“Control asthma.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 September, 2019.
“Asthma management.” betterhealth.vic.gov.au, Department of Health and Human Services-Australia.
“Asthma: Most recent national asthma data.” cdc.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.