Manage your asthma
There are tried and tested ways to help you stay well with your asthma
Manage your asthma
Managing your asthma well will significantly cut your risk of an asthma attack.
Why it’s so important to manage your asthma
The good news is there are tried and tested ways to help you stay well with your asthma, such as getting into a good routine of taking your asthma medicines and making the most of your asthma review. When asthma’s well managed, most people should be free of symptoms. Severe asthma can be harder to control but for the majority of people with asthma, the aim of treatment is to manage your asthma so that:
- You get no daytime symptoms
- You get no night-time waking due to asthma
- You don’t need to use reliever inhalers (usually blue)
- You don’t have any asthma attacks
- Asthma doesn’t limit your daily life (including working and exercising).
Keeping your asthma well managed is also vital for the long-term health of your lungs. Frequent asthma attacks have been shown to cause damage to the lungs - just as heart attacks can leave your heart damaged. You wouldn’t expect three heart attacks to leave your heart undamaged, and it’s just the same with repeat asthma attacks.
If you have been diagnosed with severe asthma, please go to our severe asthma section as we have lots of special advice for you there.
Better control, less medicine
Some people don’t like the idea of taking medicine every day but if your asthma’s well managed, you’re actually less likely to need to use your reliever inhaler very often. And you’ll be kept on the lowest dose of preventer inhaler necessary to keep you free of symptoms. So, overall, managing your asthma well can mean using less medicine. If you have to pay for your prescriptions, managing your asthma well may even save you money.
Other advantages of staying on top of your asthma
It’s not just about your physical health. As asthma can have a big impact on your life and the people around you, managing it well has all sorts of benefits. Here are some of them:
- You can get on with doing the things you want to do – from travel to sex to exercise - without feeling concerned that asthma symptoms might get in the way
- Your loved ones will worry less about you
- You won’t need to miss out on any aspects of family life, from playing energetic games with your children to helping elderly relatives
- You’re less likely to need time off work due to symptoms
Not sure how to manage your child's asthma?
Visit our section on managing your child’s asthma for simple expert advice.
Reduce your risk of going to hospital with your asthma
Research shows that if you understand your asthma and what triggers it, and if you know how to spot symptoms getting worse and what to do about them, you're much less likely to need to go to hospital with an asthma attack. Using a written asthma action plan helps you manage your asthma well and actually means you're four times less likely to be admitted to hospital for your asthma.
Stay well with your asthma
Every ten seconds someone in the UK has a potentially life-threatening asthma attack and evidence shows that certain factors, such as allergies, increase your risk. So it's really important to know your risks and find out more about the best ways to manage your asthma so you can lower them.
For example, smoking will stop you from managing your asthma well and put you and your children at risk of symptoms. Find out how smoking will affect your asthma and your child's asthma, and get advice and support on giving up so you can manage your asthma better.
Get advice just for you
The basics of self-management are the same for everyone with asthma but we also have specific advice for women and girls on how to manage their asthma during times of hormonal change, such as at puberty and menopause, as well as during pregnancy; for older people with asthma, and for young adults.
Look after your emotional health
Your emotional wellbeing can make a real difference to your asthma and how you look after it. We also look into the specific issues around managing asthma when you’re also dealing with depression or anxiety.
Your GP and asthma nurse are there to help you look after your asthma in the best way and your local pharmacist can also give you support.
Make positive changes
Asthma is a long-term condition, so managing it has to be a long-term commitment. Having a strong support network is very important, especially when you’re first diagnosed or you’re struggling with your asthma. Using these five steps gives you a proven way to make it easier to stick to healthy lifestyle changes – whether that’s taking your medicine as directed or quitting smoking. Write or type out your plan so you have something to refer back to:
Step 1: Make a plan
Identify what you’ll do to manage your asthma well and how you’ll fit it into your daily routine. For example, if your aim is to take your preventer inhaler every day as prescribed, you could decide you’ll do this when you brush your teeth morning and night.
Step 2: Keep going!
Once you’ve got into a good routine, stick with it – soon, managing your asthma will just become part of daily life. Like learning to drive or use a new phone, something that seems tricky to start with quickly becomes a habit.
Step 3: Troubleshoot
Planning ahead for any problems can help you stay on track. Think about what might get in the way of your plan, and how you could sort it out. For example, if you tend to get out of routine with your medicines when you’re on holiday, you could plan to order a new prescription two weeks before you go away and ask your travelling companions to check you’re remembering to take your medicine.
Step 4: Deal with unhelpful thoughts
The way you think about asthma and any worries you have can affect how well you stick to your medicine routine. Make a list of all your concerns and speak to your GP or asthma nurse, or call the friendly expert nurses on our Helpline. You could also have a look at our page on common concerns about medicines.
Step 5: Reward yourself
Rewarding yourself for achieving what you set out to do can help you stay motivated. Treating yourself in ways that eases stress or lifts your spirits gives you more energy to cope well – always important for anyone with a long-term health condition. List ways you can treat yourself when you meet your goals. For example, if you quit smoking you could plan to use the money you save on a massage or facial, or a new gadget.
Read how other people with asthma got into a good routine with managing their condition in our Your Stories section.
Asthma in the long term
Asthma can change over time. In women, it may change during times of hormonal upheaval, such as pregnancy. And asthma can also change as you get older – for example, you may find you have different triggers.
You may also find your asthma changes in response to your lifestyle – for example, some research has linked obesity to worse symptoms, and losing excess weight may improve asthma. Stress may affect it so you may notice it gets worse during big life changes such as leaving home or going travelling. Your symptoms can also get better or worse throughout the year, depending on what triggers are around.
So make sure you stay on top of your asthma whatever’s going on in your life. It’s very important you go for an asthma review at least once a year so your GP or asthma nurse can monitor you and adjust your medicines if necessary. Keep your written asthma action plan up to date, and follow it.
Asthma UK produces award winning materials to help people with asthma understand and manage their condition better, including action plans and a peak flow diary.
Last updated January 2016
Next review due January 2019