How to Prevent Asthma Symptoms

Asthma symptoms start when allergens or other irritants cause the lining of the airways to swell and become narrow. The muscles around the airways can then contract rapidly, causing the airways to narrow even more.

When the lining of the airways is inflamed, it produces more mucus and it further clogs the airways and blocks the flow of air. However, there are some ways to control an asthma attack to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Avoiding allergens and irritants:

  • If pollen and mold cause your symptoms, use your air conditioner and try to keep the windows of your home and car closed. Change the filter on your heating and cooling system frequently.

  • To keep mold down, clean and air out bathrooms, kitchens, and basements often.

  • Keep the humidity below 50%, using an air conditioner or a dehumidifier.

  • To reduce dust mites in your home, as its droppings cause dust, wash bedsheets weekly in hot water. Cover mattresses and pillows in airtight covers and remove carpets and drapes. If you must have carpet, you can treat it with chemicals to help reduce dust mites.

  • Try avoid stuffed animals, dried flowers, and other things that catch dust.

  • If you have a pet, keep it out of your bedroom.

  • Never allow smoking in your house or car, as tobacco smoke can make your asthma worse.

Keeping track of your symptoms:

  • Use a peak flow meter to keep track of your asthma symptoms. It is a hand-held device that measures your peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), or how fast you can blow air out of your lungs. Measuring your PEFR regularly can help you tell whether your asthma is getting worse.

  • To us a peak flow meter, you need to find out your "personal best" peak flow. Take a deep breath and blow as hard as you can into the mouthpiece. Your personal best is the highest reading you get on the meter over a two-week period when your asthma is under good control.

Taking medicine:

  • Asthma medicines can generally be divided into two groups: Controller Medicines (that prevent attacks) and Rescue Medicines (that treat attacks). Your doctor will talk to you about these medicines and what to do if you have an asthma attack.

  • Controller medicines help reduce the swelling in your airways to prevent asthma attacks. These include inhaled corticosteroids, cromolyn, and nedocromil. Controller medicines must be taken on a regular basis, whether or not you’re having symptoms. They take hours or days to start to help and don’t work well unless you take them regularly.

  • Newer medicines called anti-leukotrienes are also used to prevent asthma attacks. These include montelukast, zafirlukast, and zileuton.

  • Rescue medicines provide quick relief during an asthma attack by helping the muscle around your airways relax, which allows your airways to open.

  • Inhaled bronchodilators are examples of rescue medicines. They can be used on a regular basis or only when they are needed to quickly reduce symptoms.