Monitoring severe asthma symptoms

Easy ways to monitor your severe asthma symptoms

Have an asthma action plan
Keep a diary
Record your peak flow
Check for changes in your peak flow
Use your personal asthma action plan
More ways to monitor your symptoms

It’s quite common for people with severe asthma to find it difficult to keep on top of their asthma symptoms. People with severe asthma can have symptoms most days and many have other health conditions they need to manage as well. 

But keeping a record of your symptoms is important because:

  • It shows you when your symptoms are under control and can help you get back some control and boost your confidence.
  • It shows you when your symptoms are getting worse and you can use your asthma action plan to change your treatment routine or get help. 

Six ways to monitor your symptoms

1. Have an asthma action plan  

A written personal asthma action plan is important; it records your medicine routine and what to do when symptoms change.   You might need to take steps to control your asthma (yellow zone) or deal with an asthma attack (red zone). If you do not have an action plan ask your GP or Asthma nurse to write one for you. Asthma UK has a personal asthma action plan you can download and fill in with your healthcare professional.   

2. Keep a diary of your symptoms 

Keeping a diary of your symptoms will help you to learn about what can set off your asthma. It could be pets, a rise in pollution levels or stress. You can then try to avoid these triggers when you need to. It can also show you if you are having a good day, when you can do more than when you can on a bad day. 

Show your asthma symptom diary to your healthcare team, and they can see if your treatment is the best for you. They can see if you are managing your triggers and symptoms and if you need more help. 

“I keep a record of my symptoms online – I didn’t like any of the existing asthma tracking apps, so I made a spreadsheet. That means I can share the document 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 

3. Record your peak flow

If you have agreed with your healthcare team to monitor your peak flow, take daily readings.   Keep a note of your results. You can set up a note on your phone or write it in a notebook. Do what’s best for you so you will keep doing it. 

“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

4. Check for changes in your symptoms and peak flow 

If you can spot patterns or changes in your symptoms, make a note of it and show it to your healthcare team so they can see if your treatment is working well.  Make sure you are taking your medications exactly as agreed with your healthcare teams. Taking your asthma medicines as prescribed is vital if you have severe asthma so you keep it under control and prevent asthma attacks.

Not taking your medicines properly (doctors call it ‘poor adherence’) has been linked with asthma attacks leading to death.  So it is vital that you stick to your treatment plan.  

“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 

“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

5. Use your personal asthma action plan

If your symptoms are taking you into the yellow or red zone on your written asthma action plan, do what your plan tells you to do. You may have agreed a plan you agreed with your doctor for increasing your medicine. If you don’t have an action plan, call your GP or Asthma nurse. If you think you are having an asthma attack, follow the steps on your action plan and call 999 if you need to. 

“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 

More ways to monitor severe asthma symptoms 

The best way to monitor symptoms is whatever works for you, that way you are more likely to keep doing it. There are apps you can download or you can set up an Excel spreadsheet on your computer. You can set up a note on your smartphone. But some people just prefer a plain notebook and pen. Your notebook could be a diary or a ‘grid’ notebook where you can draw your own charts.  

Another idea is to have a calendar on the wall and use coloured sticky dots (green, yellow, red) to mark how your symptoms are doing. 

Getting into a routine when monitoring your symptoms can make it easier. Some people find it simpler to remember if it is before or after a mealtime. Others set a reminder on their phone.

Find what works best for you. On our Forum at HealthUnlocked you can find lots of other ideas from people with severe asthma.

Last updated March 2020

Next review due March 2022