One of the best ways to find relief from asthma symptoms is to get involved in your care. A good understanding of your disease can ease the fear, the feeling of not knowing what's coming, and the anxiety around not being able to breathe freely. You have options besides medication to help you control and manage your asthma, too.
When you pay attention to your body and your surroundings, you're less likely to be surprised by a sudden attack. And you'll have peace of mind knowing how to handle one when it happens.
When your body doesn't have enough oxygen, you could get hypoxemia or hypoxia. These are dangerous conditions. Without oxygen, your brain, liver, and other organs can be damaged just minutes after symptoms start.
Hypoxemia (low oxygen in your blood) can cause hypoxia (low oxygen in your tissues) when your blood doesn't carry enough oxygen to your tissues to meet your body's needs. The word hypoxia is sometimes used to describe both problems.
If you don't have one already, work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan. This is something you talk about and write down. It explains the way to tell how well-controlled your asthma is and what you need to do about it.
For instance, your action plan might include:
How much medicine to take and when
A list of your triggers and ways to avoid them
What to do when you have specific symptoms of trouble
Use a Peak Flow Meter
A peak flow meter is an inexpensive, hand-held gadget. You use it to measure how fast air comes out when you exhale hard after a full breath in. This number is called a peak expiratory flow, or PEF.
Your doctor may want you to use a peak flow meter to help you recognize trouble. Many asthma symptoms come from not being able to move air out of your lungs. If your PEF goes down, that's a sign your asthma is getting worse and you need to do something.
Keep an Asthma Diary
A diary is a way to keep track of how well-controlled your asthma is. Every day, write down:
Any asthma symptoms you had and how you're feeling
Where you were and what you were doing right before a flare
When you're using medication and how much
Your PEF numbers
All of this information, collected in one place, helps you and your doctor see patterns and recognize warnings of asthma attacks. You can learn to prevent them or stop them before you get very ill.
Your doctor can also check your diary to see how well your asthma action plan is working.