So you're ready to control your asthma rather than having asthma control you? Here are some ways you can make your asthma not be such a big deal.
- Take your medicines regularly. Some asthma medicines help you stay in control everyday even when you have no symptoms. These are super important and are like “vitamins" to your lungs to keep your asthma under control. Kids tell us that when they take all their meds regularly, they don’t have as many symptoms and feel better and can do everything they want to without any restriction. They miss fewer days of school too!
- Don’t stop your controller meds. Teens tell us that sometimes when they are feeling better on their meds they think their asthma has “gone away." Asthma doesn’t go away. It’s part of you and the way your body works. If you are feeling great on your medicines, it means your asthma is controlled and the medicines are working. Don’t stop them! If you think you want to, call your healthcare provider’s office and talk to a nurse or your primary care provider about reducing your medicines if you can.
- Be prepared! Keep your rescue inhaler and chamber available at all times. Keep it in your backpack and in your locker at school. Keep it in the nurse’s office and in the athletic office at school. If you stay at another house overnight regularly or have a job, make sure you have your medicines available there too. It’s hard to remember to carry them with you all the time. Ask your parents to help you get extra supplies for these locations to make it easier for you. And keep a copy of your Asthma Care Plan in these locations as well.
- Be as active as you want to be. If your asthma is in good control, you should be able to participate in any sport you like. Swimming, running, basketball, soccer, tennis, rock climbing and dancing are all possible. You may need to pre-treat with a medicine before participating, but you should be able to be as good as you want to be. Many professional athletes and world-class Olympians have asthma and still break records!
- Get help if you're struggling to compete. Exercise is good for your asthma and your lungs. If you are struggling to compete, it could be that you are out of shape or that you need to get your asthma under better control. Staying in touch with your healthcare provider will help you be more successful at your sport.
- Know your body. Only you can know your own early signs of a flare. Is your chest feeling tight? Is your voice hoarse or your throat itchy? Do you feel more tired than usual? Are you coughing or having trouble catching your breath suddenly with regular activity? Teens who pay attention to these early signs of a flare and get on it right away avoid ER visits and hospital days. They feel better when they know they were the ones who helped themselves avoid a bad flare.
- Help your brain remember. We know you're busy with school, friends and activities, and it's hard to remember to take your medicine everyday. Your parents can only do so much, and most teens don’t really like the nagging. You can help yourself by setting up reminders in your day. Got a cell phone? Set a reminder call on your phone that says “Take yr mdsn, dude” and even set a special ring tone that only you know. If you are on Facebook or other social media, create a reminder on your page. How can the technology you use everyday help to remind you?
- Avoid things that make your asthma worse. Smoke, pets, dust, strong perfumes or cleaning products can all make asthma worse. You know what makes you feel bad. Think about the things that bother you and pre-treat or have another plan ready before being near them. Your healthcare provider can help you put a plan together.
- Think about how you feel and talk to someone. Teens have a challenging time growing up and getting to adulthood safely and successfully. There’s so much going on — making friends; trying hard at school; dealing with parents, brothers and sisters, and family responsibilities. Keeping on top of your asthma is just one more thing. It’s a lot and some teens feel sad, annoyed, lonely or “out of it." Some teens, when they are having lots of asthma flares, feel helpless, like they can’t really do anything right to keep their asthma under control. They feel like giving up. These feelings are really important and need to be heard. Talking about your feelings and getting support is important to help you feel able to take control of your asthma and your life. Speak up! Talk to your primary care provider, your guidance counselor, parents and other adults you trust about these feelings and keep talking until someone really hears you.
Reviewed by: Eve Bosnick, MSN, CRNP
Date: January 2009