by Natasha Persaud
These simple strategies can help you control asthma and breathe free where you live, work and play
The best way to keep asthma from ruling your life? A partnership between you and your doctor, and an approach that includes both medication and smart lifestyle steps. "Good asthma treatment involves seeing the doctor regularly, taking medications as directed and following your personal asthma action plan, a document you complete with your doctor that outlines what to do when asthma symptoms worsen," advises Paul Ehrlich, M.D., coauthor of Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide.
Another key move: Pinpoint the substances and situations that trigger your asthma flares—and steer clear of them. "When you have symptoms, ask yourself: When did they start? Where was I? What was I doing?" says Dr. Ehrlich. And try these tactics at home, at work and outdoors.
- Use allergen-proof covers on mattresses and pillows. To get rid of dust mites, wash bedding weekly in water above 130°F and keep indoor humidity below 50 percent, using a dehumidifier.
- Ban dogs, cats and all other pets from your bedroom. Sorry, Fido!
- Remove carpets and rugs from bedrooms or vacuum twice a week with a cleaner equipped with a HEPA air filter.
- To reduce mold problems, fix all leaks and eliminate standing water (such as in planters).
- Avoid smoking areas. "Smoke and the odor of tobacco can trigger an attack," says Dr. Ehrlich.
- Find out the cleaning schedule and cleaning products used at work and avoid exposure.
- Know the location of the nearest hospital to your job in case you ever require emergency care.
- Dial down stress. "Intense emotions can bring on asthma symptoms," he says.
- When the weather is extremely hot, humid or stagnant, check the air quality by visiting airnow.gov. Stay indoors during ozone alerts.
- Exercise-induced asthma? Exercise indoors—not outside—in very cold or hot weather.
- If you have seasonal allergies, consider staying indoors, if possible, during peak pollen days.
- Give school administrators a doctor's letter stating that your child needs to carry inhaled medications in school and use a peak flow meter.
- Ask whether the school nurse stocks rescue medication and knows how to use it.
- Check in regularly with the physical education teacher and coaches to learn how your child fares during gym class and sports practices.
- Ask teachers to seat your child away from blackboards; chalk dust can trigger an asthma attack in some kids.
Prevent Asthma Attacks At Work
Prevent Asthma Attacks Outdoors
Give your child's asthma action plan to his teachers, the school nurse, the gym instructor, the recess monitor, the bus driver—and anyone else who supervises him or her. And "make sure they understand the signs of worsening asthma, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath," says Dr. Ehrlich.
"A doctor can give you tools to manage asthma. But it is up to you to do the rest," says Dr. Ehrlich. "Using all the tools available to you will help you control asthma so it isn't controlling you."
From our sister publication, REMEDY (Fall 2010)