What is Asthma?

Asthma is caused by chronic inflammation or narrowing in the lungs and bronchial airway structures. It may be chronic or intermittent/variable (the symptoms come and go). It may be caused by genetic or environmental factors. The symptoms of asthma are: wheezing (noisy whistling breathing), shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness.

Asthma may be triggered by allergens both indoors and outdoors, such as: Animal dander, dust mites, pollen, molds, tobacco and other types of smoke, strong odors or chemical sprays, and even cockroaches. Other triggers that can make asthma worse are cold air, changes in air temperature, overly dry or muggy air, certain types of medications, infections such as the common cold or flu viruses, and preservatives in foods/beverages called sulfites.  Asthma symptoms may also worsen with  exercise and stress.

Asthma symptoms may be controlled but not cured.

How is Asthma Treated?

There  are many ways to manage asthma symptoms. Medications and limiting triggers are two important ways to control asthma. Asthma can be different in each individual. Your health care provider will develop a plan that works for you. Medications for asthma work in different ways. Some medications called “rescue inhalers” (albuterol) help relax and open up the airways.  They are often used “as needed”. Other inhalers, such as steroid inhalers decrease the inflammation in the lungs and airways. They are often  called “control meds.”

Steroid Inhalers: Flovent, Pulmicort, Advair, etc.

  • Use routinely, either once daily or  twice daily (approximately 12 hours apart: 9-AM/9-PM)  as  prescribed.
    After use gargle, rinse and spit to keep medication from coating the mouth.

Bronchodilators: (Albuterol-type Inhalers) Pro-Air, Ventolin, etc. Also known as a  Short-Acting Beta-Agonist (SABA).

  • (Use this  with a spacer before the Steroid inhaler). 1-2 inhalations every 4-6 hours, as needed.  See back for spacer information.

There are other types of medications used to control asthma symptoms as well. Ask your health care provider if you feel your asthma is not well controlled.  In some instances during an asthma flare up, a steroid medication called prednisone is prescribed, which will decrease inflammation. If you are prescribed Prednisone oral pills, it is important to take pills in the morning with a meal.

It is also important for anyone with asthma  to obtain an influenza (flu) vaccination each year.

Managing Asthma Triggers

  • Limit animal dander. Keep pets with fur out of bedrooms or sleeping areas, and keep the door closed.
  • Limit carpets, and excess cloth in the home where pet dander and dust mites can accumulate.  If carpets are present vacuum  frequently using a HEPA filter.
  • Limit environmental triggers like dust mites by using special dust-proof mattress and pillow covers, and keep stuffed animals away from sleeping areas.
  • Clean living and working areas frequently.
  • Wash sheets, pillow cases, blankets and other bedding materials at least once weekly in hot water to kill dust mites.
  • Fix leaky pipes/faucets to prevent mold and mildew.
  • Avoid smoke and fumes from all sources, including fireplaces, wood stoves, cigarettes, exhaust fumes, and other strong odors such as perfumes, paints, chemical spray cleaners and bleach fumes.
  • Use common sense when exercising. If you become short of breath with increased activity, use your rescue inhaler prior to exercise, and contact your health care provider with worsening symptoms.
  • If you develop a viral illness and experience worsening symptoms, contact your health care provider.

Does Everyone Who Uses an Inhaler have Asthma?

No, there are times when you may have inflammation or lung symptoms due to other factors.

Some people are prescribed inhalers due to “reactive airways”; such as before exercising, with changes in weather,  or when they are experiencing cold and flu symptoms.

It is not uncommon for those individuals to require inhalers only during those times. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your health care provider.

How do I use my inhaler with a spacer?

  • Remove the cap from your inhaler and spacer. Check to make sure there are no foreign objects in the inhaler mouthpiece or spacer.
  • Insert the inhaler mouthpiece into the spacer.
  • Shake the inhaler to mix the medicine.
  • Breathe out fully. Place the spacer mouthpiece between your lips.
  • Press down on the canister. Then, breathe in slowly.
  • Hold your breath for about 10 seconds. Breathe out slowly.
  • Repeat if more puffs of medicine are needed.