Tips to Help Patients with Asthma Breathe Better
May 31 2022
10 Strategies to Keep Asthma Under Control
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that can make it difficult to breathe. Around 20 million Americans have the condition, and unfortunately, more and more people are being diagnosed with asthma. This means that it is highly likely that you will be caring for a patient or patients who have asthma.
Because of this, it is important to know what the symptoms of asthma are, sometimes referred to as an asthma attack. These symptoms include a tight feeling in the chest, coughing and wheezing, trouble sleeping, weakness, and trouble breathing (especially during exercise). Allergens and colder weather can also worsen symptoms or make them more frequent.
While there is no cure for asthma, there are things you can do to help your patients keep it under control so they can breathe easier.
Avoid Smoke or Quit Smoking
1 Smoking and secondhand smoke can significantly increase the severity and frequency of symptoms. Encourage your patient or family members they live with to quit smoking. Not only will avoiding smoke from tobacco products help reduce asthma symptoms, but it is also healthier for your lungs and body in general.
2 Help patients figure out what triggers their asthma and avoid those triggers. These can be things such as strong scents, cold weather, wildfire smoke, or allergens. If asthma is a new diagnosis for your patient, encourage them to keep a journal of what they were around just before their asthma attack. This will help them pinpoint their triggers.
3 Help patients become more aware of allergen levels during allergy seasons. Most weather apps on phones have an allergen indicator that can be very helpful. This will help asthma patients know when they need to avoid unnecessary time outdoors during high allergen levels.
Indoor allergens can also be an issue so it’s important that the home be kept clean. Many items in the home collect dust and pets can add dander to the mix. To reduce indoor allergens, the home should be regularly vacuumed, mopped, and dusted.
4 Stress is a common trigger for many asthma sufferers. When we are stressed, the body releases hormones that increase breathing and heart rate, triggering an asthma attack. Help your patient learn relaxation techniques and find other ways of reducing stress, such as massage, relaxing baths, and even gentle exercise.
5 Every asthma patient is different so it’s key they find a medication that works for them. Often asthma patients will have two types of medications, one that is long-term and another for emergencies. Be sure that the patient is communicating with you about how effective they are finding their medication so that it can be adjusted or switched if needed.
6 There is a common myth out there that exercise in general can trigger asthma symptoms, but the reality is that regular exercise can dramatically improve asthma symptoms. There are some exercises that can be harmful, so asthma patients need to be intentional about the specific kind of exercise they do. They should always start by warming up and then focusing on exercise that does not require long periods of strenuous work. Exercise should be gentle.
7 Breathing exercises can help asthma patients relieve asthma symptoms and even strengthen their lungs. Work with them to find the right breathing exercises for them. Some examples of breathing exercises include, but are not limited to, diaphragmatic breathing, nasal breathing, and yoga breathing.
8 Certain vitamins and nutrients can play a crucial role in controlling asthma symptoms. Vitamin C is naturally anti-inflammatory and can help keep air passages clearer, improving lung function. Reducing salt can also help improve asthma symptoms.
Have an Emergency Asthma Plan
9 In the event of a severe asthma attack, it’s important to have a plan that those nearby know about. As a medical professional, you should be part of helping to formulate that plan of action. Then make sure that family members know what needs to be done. Consider writing down what medications are necessary for them to take and how to take them (such as proper inhaler use).
10 Illnesses such as the cold or the flu infect the airways and lungs. This can further aggravate asthma symptoms. To avoid viruses, the patient should follow these practices:
- Wash hands properly and often
- Get the flu shot (if they are able to)
- Get enough sleep (not getting enough sleep can be a big drain on our immune system)