How to Lower Your Risk for Asthma Complications

How to Lower Your Risk for Asthma Complications

Of the 24.8 million people who have asthma in the United States, nearly half (11.9 million) have had at least one asthma attack within the past year. About 1.7 million Americans visit the emergency room for severe asthma symptoms each year, and close to 189,000 people are hospitalized because of uncontrolled asthma annually.  

Worse, about 3,500 people die of asthma complications every year in the U.S. 

As board-certified pulmonologists who specialize in asthma management, our expert team at Fivestar Pulmonary Associates knows that preventing asthma symptom flares is the best way to reduce your risk of asthma-related complications. Here are five ways to do just that.

1. Identify your asthma triggers

Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed with adult-onset asthma or you’ve been living with the condition since childhood, you know it’s always with you. You also know that a symptom flare — or asthma attack — only occurs when something bothers your lungs.

Asthma triggers include any activity, thing, or condition that seems to irritate your airways and prompt a symptom flare. Common asthma triggers include:

Figuring out exactly what causes your asthma symptom flares is a crucial first step toward successful asthma control. 

2. Avoid or minimize your triggers

Once you’ve identified your asthma triggers, you can take action to minimize your contact with them or avoid them altogether. If smoke is one of your symptom triggers — as it is for most people with asthma — you should avoid cigarettes and second-hand smoke, and stay indoors when wildfire smoke diminishes outdoor air quality.   

 If dust mites are one of your allergic asthma triggers, you can take steps to reduce your exposure at home by cleaning frequently, using HEPA filters in your vacuum, furnace, and air conditioner, using protective bedding and pillowcases. 

Our team can work with you to create a detailed and actionable avoidance plan for all your known asthma triggers. 

3. Get your seasonal vaccinations 

Respiratory infections are a common cause of worsening symptoms for most people who have asthma. While you’ll want to do what you can to stay well — avoiding close contact with people who are sick and practicing good hand-washing habits — you’ll probably still wind up catching the occasional cold. 

Fortunately, there are seasonal vaccines available for influenza (the flu), coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and pneumococcal disease (pneumonia). Getting immunized as recommended can help prevent the kind of infection-induced asthma flare that can last for days or weeks — with potentially serious consequences.    

4. Follow your asthma treatment plan

For most people, medication is an essential component of asthma control. A typical asthma treatment plan includes two asthma medications: A long-term control medication taken daily, and quick-relief medicine to ease the symptom flares of an asthma attack. 

In addition to trigger avoidance, long-term control medication is one of your most important asthma management tools. Why? It restrains inflammation in your airways to prevent asthma symptom flares. It’s very important to take this medicine every day as directed — even when you don’t have symptoms. 

Quick-relief asthma medication is also essential for preventing asthma complications because it’s designed to stop the progression of asthma symptoms and keep a mild or moderate attack from turning into a severe emergency.  

5. Know when to monitor your asthma 

A severe asthma attack almost never occurs without warning: Most people experience mild early symptoms, like coughing, fatigue, and slight chest tightness in the lead-up to a major episode. Asthma causes the airways in your lungs to narrow slowly, so it’s vital to recognize the onset of an attack before your airways are significantly restricted. 

Using a peak flow meter can help. When you blow into it, this pocket-sized device shows how well air moves through your lungs; it can also detect a narrowing in your airways many hours before you would start to feel asthma symptoms. A peak flow meter can tell you:   

In conjunction with your asthma action plan, peak flow meter use can help you experience fewer asthma symptom flares — and help prevent the kind of severe asthma attack that requires a trip to the hospital. 

Gaining the upper hand over asthma

Ready to improve your asthma management plan? We can help. Call or click online to schedule a visit at your nearest Fivestar Pulmonary Associates office in Allen, McKinney, or Plano, Texas. Get started now by filling out our asthma control test today.

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