by Annabel Cooper
Asthma can’t be cured, but it can be controlled and those who suffer from sensitive airways can lead as healthy a life as anyone else if they know what to do.
Asthma nurses Liz Boden and Tracy Nash of Open Airways guide us through the different steps every asthma sufferer can take to keep their condition under control.
What is asthma?
The first step to controlling asthma is to understand exactly what it is.
Asthma is a condition affecting the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. If you have asthma, your airways are extra sensitive. This means when you come into contact with something you are allergic to, or a ‘trigger’ that irritates your airways, they will become narrower, making it harder to breathe. The muscles around the airways tighten. The lining becomes inflamed and swollen. Sticky mucous is often produced.
The symptoms of asthma are:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
Not everyone will get all of these symptoms. Asthma varies from day to day and person to person. It may also come and go throughout your life.
Asthma Action Plan
Because asthma varies from person to person, everyone who has asthma needs to have their own personal asthma action plan.
Copies of the form are kept with your doctor, in the case of a child, their school, and at home. It includes your personal triggers and, if seasonal, when they happen.
It includes a green, amber and red traffic light system for what medication you need to take; how much you need to take and how often. Amber and red includes what medication you need to take on top of this, if your asthma flares up and, in the case of the latter, when to go straight to the hospital emergency room.
The plan needs to be completed in partnership with your doctor or asthma nurse. Open Airways can also help you complete your action plan free of charge.
Medical Steps – Know How to Take Your Treatment
Take your preventer every day. Preventer inhalers are usually orange, brown or purple and they make your airways less sensitive.
For adults and children over 12 years old, an alternative to the traditional preventer inhaler is Symbicort, which is a SMART (single maintenance and relief therapy) inhaler which works as both a preventer and also a relief inhaler.
Be prepared! Never leave home without your relief inhaler, which is usually the blue one containing Ventolin. Ventolin should only be used in emergencies. If you are using it on a regular basis, your asthma is not well-controlled.
All children and adults who use a metered dose inhaler should use a spacer. If they find it difficult, ask an asthma expert to teach them how to use it.
Know what your triggers are and avoid the ones you can. Triggers can include dust-mites, stuffed toys, pollen and grass, mould, pets, sprays and perfumes, air pollution and colds.
Avoid too many stuffed toys, carpet in bedrooms, old pillows or mattresses, cleaning sprays or aerosols, air-fresheners, Easter lilies, smoke and walking along busy roads.
Improve your environment by having a new pillow every year, using microfibre cloths and water to clean your home, opening windows every day, having green houseplants, washing your hands regularly and asking your doctor about a flu shot.
For further information or assistance, visit www.openairways. com or call 232-0264.