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Tracking Asthma Symptoms: Key to Control

Tracking and rating your asthma symptoms are key to successful treatment.
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Even if you’re not actually coughing or wheezing, it’s also important to note if you can’t be as physically active as you’d like. If your child has asthma, you may have to watch this carefully.

“Kids, of course, will not come to their parents and say that they think their asthma feels worse, so look at their activity level,” says Joo. “Are they playing as much as usual, or are they sitting on the sidelines or coming in earlier than they used to?” Children should be able to go as fast as they want. When they can’t keep up with their friends, that’s an indicator that doctors should take a look at how well their asthma is controlled.

The need to use an inhaler is another important sign that asthma is not under control. It’s a common misconception that using an inhaler is a normal part of daily life with asthma; doctors call it a “rescue inhaler” for a reason.

“The goal is never to use it,” says Joo. “If you have good controlling medications and are minimizing your exposure to allergens, you shouldn’t be using your inhaler on a regular basis. If you’re using it every day, that’s an indicator to the doctor that you might need an increase in your controlling medications.”

Tracking asthma symptoms isn’t only a daytime task. Nighttime symptoms should be tracked, too. Nighttime coughing, in particular, can indicate that asthma is not well controlled.

If you’re not sure whether or not a symptom is related to your asthma, take note of it and ask. And if you’re having trouble with the side effects of an asthma medication, make note of that, too. Don’t just stop taking your asthma medication or cut down on the dosage. “Everyone should feel comfortable communicating their symptoms to their doctor,” says Joo.

All this may sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of tools available to help you track asthma symptoms and peak flow, and figure out if you’re in the green, yellow, or red zone.

  • WebMD’s Asthma Action Plan
  • The Online Interactive Asthma Diary provided by the National Jewish Medical and Research Center

These simple tools help you work with your doctor to catch flare-ups before they get out of hand. “Putting out a small brush fire is better than a big forest fire,” says Joo. “If you’re going from the green to the yellow zone, it’s an indicator that there’s probably inflammation. If we wait too long to control it, it may take longer to quiet that flare-up down. Ultimately, the goal is to take charge of your asthma!”

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Reviewed on September 22, 2008
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