It’s quite common for people with severe asthma to find it difficult to keep on top of their asthma symptoms.
In a recent survey nearly three in five people with severe asthma told us they have asthma symptoms either ‘every day’ or ‘most days’. And two-thirds also told us they have other health conditions to manage too.
But keeping a record of your symptoms can help you get back some control and boost your confidence.
Why is it useful to monitor severe asthma symptoms?
Keeping a note of what severe asthma symptoms you have and when you have them is helpful because:
- It’s easier to spot when things aren’t going well. An increase in symptoms can act as an early warning system and tell you that you need to take action.
- It also shows you when things are going well. Logging the days when you have fewer or no symptoms can help build your confidence in managing your condition and in the combination of medicines you’re taking.
If you also keep more detailed notes, such as what you were doing that day, and what triggers you came across, it can help you:
- Learn which situations make your severe asthma symptoms worse, such as high pollution days, or days when you have a lot going on or you’re feeling stressed.
- Spot patterns − for example, women who find their symptoms are worse around their period can plan ahead and talk to their asthma specialist about what they can do to prevent and manage symptoms.
- Show your healthcare team how you’ve been between appointments.
- Explain your severe asthma to friends, family and work colleagues. This helps them see how your severe asthma is on an everyday basis, and understand some of the challenges you face.
“I know I’m good at managing my severe asthma and I take it very seriously as I can’t afford to be complacent. I find it useful to monitor my symptoms and make sure I’m always on the alert.” − Celena Dell, 34
What’s the best way to monitor severe asthma symptoms?
If you think monitoring symptoms is just another chore you haven’t got the time or energy for, try these five easy steps to get started:
1. Start simple
“I’m going to buy a notebook and write down my symptoms and what I did that day every day before I go to bed/after my last inhaler/meds for the day. This will be a useful way to see exactly how my asthma is over time.”
2. Use tools
“I’m going to score my symptoms 1-5, or use colour coded stickers (for example red for symptoms not great and green for a good day) and add to the calendar every day so I can really see how I’m doing over time.”
“I’ll download apps on my smartphone or computer, or use Excel spreadsheets where I can quickly add in symptoms and the situations that may have triggered them each day.”
3. Find what works best for you
“I’m not great at using apps and find it easier to keep a notebook by my bed.”
“I’m better at remembering to log my symptoms if I do it on my phone.”
4. Fit it into your routine
“I’m going to take a note of my symptoms at the same time every day, for example when I take my medicines, or before going to bed.”
Use your findings
Take your symptoms log with you to your next appointment with your healthcare team. You’ll find it makes it easier to explain how you’ve been and will help to identify any situations or things that make your asthma symptoms worse.
“I keep a record of my symptoms online – I didn’t like any of the existing asthma tracking apps, so I made a spreadsheet in Google Docs. That means I can share the link with my nurse online without having to be seen in person, and she can keep checking up on how my stats are changing over time.” − Abi Bettle, 28
“Between appointments I keep a diary of my peak flow readings, and I take a note of all the asthma medicines I use so I can show the GP.” − Peter Naylor, 52
Keep track of your asthma medicines too
Making sure you take your asthma medicines as prescribed is vital if you have severe asthma, in order to keep it under control and prevent asthma attacks. However research shows that at least 30% of people with severe asthma aren’t taking their medicines as prescribed. Research has found that poor adherence was associated with 38% of asthma deaths. So getting into a good routine could be life-saving.
People tell us they find tools such as smartphone apps, and a written asthma action plan, useful for keeping an eye on their asthma medicines and the ones they’re taking for other conditions.
“I use a free app on my iPad to help make sure I’m taking all my medicines regularly. You just type in all the meds you’re using, and the alarm goes off when it’s time to take them. It also knows when you need to put in an order for a repeat prescription.” − Julie Sharp, 30
“I’ve created a chart on my computer to help me stay organised with my asthma medicines. my chart helps me to keep track of what doses I need and when to take them.” − Julia Kerr, 29
Last updated February 2019
Next review due February 2022