• New Year, New You: Planning Ahead for a Healthier Year

    There’s no better time than the start of a new year to commit to healthy habits that are designed to keep you healthy and strong. If you were recently diagnosed with asthma, you might feel nervous about learning to manage this condition. By planning ahead, you’ll have everything you need to control your symptoms going forward.

    The allergists of Allergy & Asthma Specialists develop an Asthma Action Plan form personalized for each patient. This document helps you assess your asthma from day-to-day, and it may be modified according to your changing needs. It’s a good idea to share the details of your plan and give a copy to family members, caregivers, and close friends.

    Here are the types of things to include in your Asthma Action Plan as you aim to make 2020 a healthier year with asthma.

    Identify & Avoid Your Triggers

    The first and most important step is to pinpoint what causes your symptoms to develop. You can simply pay attention to your surroundings to identify your triggers over time, or you can meet with an allergist for allergy skin tests without needles.

    Common asthma triggers include:

    • Tobacco smoke
    • Dust mites
    • Outdoor air pollution
    • Cockroaches
    • Pet dander
    • Mold
    • Pollen
    • Perfume
    • Wildfire smoke
    • Physical exercise
    • Cold weather
    • High or low humidity
    • Some foods or food additives
    • Viral infection such as a cold or flu

    Once you know your triggers, you can do your best to avoid them. This may require some lifestyle changes, but with a little effort, you can reduce your risk of having a severe asthma attack.

    Learn to Recognize Your Symptoms

    Asthma symptom tracking can help you spot the precursors to an attack. Once you learn to sense the early warning signs, you can immediately take fast-acting medication or remove yourself from an area with triggers before your symptoms become debilitating.

    Here are some common signs that you should use your inhaler or nebulizer:

    • Exposure to a known trigger
    • Coughing
    • Mild wheezing
    • Chest tightness
    • Coughing at night
    • First signs of a cold

    For moderate to severe asthma, your doctor may recommend using a peak flow meter to measure airflow from your lungs. A reading from this device can verify if your airway has narrowed so you know to use your inhaler, even if you don’t feel symptoms yet. A low enough flow rate can also tell you if you should call your doctor or visit the ER.

    Take Controller Medicines Daily

    Even when your breathing is normal, and you can work and play like usual, it’s important to keep taking your long-term medication every day. Certain drugs help reduce your reliance on fast-acting medicine by relaxing the muscles in your airway, reducing inflammation, and preventing mucus buildup.

    If your controller medication ever seems to lose its effectiveness, talk to your doctor about modifying what drugs you take. An allergist may also recommend immunotherapy a course of treatment that can nearly eliminate allergic reactions and thus reduce the frequency and severity of your asthma attacks.

    Carry Fast-Acting Medicine with You

    Even if you avoid your triggers and take controller medicines as prescribed, asthma symptoms may still come on suddenly. Fast-acting medicine provides temporary relief and may prevent your airway from constricting dangerously.

    However, if your symptoms don’t improve after breathing from an inhaler, call your doctor right away. If you can’t get in touch, seek immediate medical treatment at the ER.

    Eat a Healthy Diet

    There’s no specific diet for asthma patients, but eating healthy is important for everyone. Also, since obesity is associated with more severe asthma symptoms, losing weight could be an integral part of your asthma plan for the new year.

    Of course, if you have any food allergies that trigger an asthma attack or other allergic reaction, avoid them. Besides that, aim to follow a diet that promotes healthy lung function:

    • Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant properties.
    • Eat more food containing omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, tuna, sardines, and flaxseed.
    • Avoid trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids found in some margarine, vegetable oil, and processed foods.
    • Continue eating dairy. It’s a myth that eliminating milk from your diet can improve asthma. Doing so could increase your risk of osteoporosis, especially if you regularly take corticosteroids to control severe asthma.

    If you need help creating an Asthma Action Plan, or you’re interested in changing the way you manage your symptoms, please call Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM at 610-825-5800 to schedule an initial consultation at one of eight office locations in the Philadelphia area.