When you have asthma, you always need to be in a “watch out” mode for early asthma worsening signs or for things that you know are triggers for you. This way you can stay above it and not to worry about anything as you have it all under control.
Peak flow meter or your home spirometer
Peak flow meter is the most handy thing you can have that can teach you all you need to know about your asthma. It’s a small device that measures the strength of your breath. You breathe out into it as fast as you can and it will tell you how much air there was in litres per minute. Depending on your age, height and weight there is some expected level of values considered as “normal” for you. You should measure your breath using your peak flow meter several times a day and record the values. If you notice that the figures are decreasing, it is a sign of worsening of your asthma even though you might still feel great and be symptoms free. Your doctor should tell you at what level you should increase the dosage of your medications, for how long, etc.
Note: There is slight difference between peak flow meter and spirometer, it’s explained in further details on WebMD:
Peak flow meter measures how well your lungs push out air.
Spirometer measures how much air you blow out and how quickly you do it.
Taking medications for asthma
One doctor once told me: “If your asthma medications work for you, it’s a clean sign that you need them.” So if you’re experiencing asthma symptoms, then you start taking asthma medications and the symptoms miraculously disappear, it means that the medications worked for you. You feel better and that’s the point. But how do you find out how much of your medications do you need?
- When you decrease the dosage of your medications, your asthma shouldn’t get worse (ask your doctor first, your doctor should tell you to do so.)
- When you’re on the right level of medications, you’re not experiencing any symptoms of your asthma too often and even if you get asthma attack, it should be mild, well treatable at home by following your asthma action plan that your doctor gave you.
- As soon as you spot any worsening of your symptoms or your peak flow meter is showing lower values than normal, you need to increase your medications (Please, don’t do anything at all without consulting your doctor first.)
Don’t expect, that taking your medications at the certain level is all what you need to do in order to have your asthma under control. Asthma is a dynamic condition. Depending on what your triggers are, you might feel worsening in a periods of higher stress levels at work or in your personal life. If you’re allergic to pollen, it will be changing depending on the season of the year. Ladies might feel periodic changes of their asthma depending on their menstrual cycle. Your treatment should be adjusted to YOUR asthma and it should be YOU who will learn to asses the situation.
Common cold is a very common asthma trigger
Asthma is an inflammatory disease. Viral and bacterial infections cause inflammation in our body. There’s no wonder your asthma is getting worse with every cold or flu. When you catch a cold, you’re most likely to develop asthma attack on the top of it too.
What to do?
If you know that you’re having a cold and you start experiencing asthma symptoms, you need to significantly increase your asthma medications. In fact, you should increase the dosage BEFORE you notice any worsening of your asthma. Check your peak flow meter chart to see how the values are going down in a first day or two of your sickness. (I don’t like repeating myself, but really, I’m not a medical professional so don’t follow any of my advice. Always talk to your doctor.)
What NOT to do?
Don’t add one puff of your inhaler if you’re already feeling narrowed airways or any other of your asthma symptoms. This won’t stop the upcoming attack, it might just slow it down. It will be coming slowly, with a bigger strength.
Attack the asthma attack before it attacks you
The best advice I’ve ever received from my allergologist was: When you’re feeling breathless, it’s too late. You need to immediately increase your medications to the full dosage in order to get over it.
The second best advice I’ve ever received from my allergologist was: Never stop taking your medications from one day to another. After getting over the asthma attack decrease the dosage little by little every week until you’re back on your usual long-term treatment.
Your doctor needs to know your asthma really well before they can give you such advice. My doctor did know me and she helped me get to know my asthma better myself. So today, I know exactly how many puffs of my inhaler do I need and I know when to take it. I don’t even need to go to the full dosage any more. I’m symptoms free for years. It took years of practice. I used to have my own home spirometer, I was using it 3 times a day for few years and I learnt how does it feel like when my asthma is getting slightly worse.
At the end of the day, all I can tell you is: Find the doctor you can trust, build a relationship with them, let them know everything about your asthma and figure out together what’s best for you. Asthma isn’t the condition that should restrict your life any more. There’s medication that will ensure you can do whatever you want, whenever you want and enjoy it at the same time. You should also try and do your best to live as healthy as possible, breathe fresh air, eat healthy food to build strong immunity. It will all play the important role in decreasing the amount of medication you take in a long term.