Living With and Managing Asthma

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

[ Music playing ] Asthma is a disease
of the airways in the lungs. That is the tubes that carry air
down deep into the lung. And what happens in asthma
is the airways tighten, become smaller. When the airways become smaller,
it’s harder to breathe. It’s hard to get air in and out
of the lung. Narrator: When you have asthma, the walls of your airways
become inflamed. This makes the airways
sensitive. The airways react strongly
to certain irritating things that you breathe in. This reaction makes
the airway muscles tighten, and much less air flows
to the lungs. Cells in the airways may also
make more mucus than normal. Weinmann: People with asthma
will get wheezing, cough, shortness of breath,
tightness, and may wake up at night
coughing and short of breath. When the symptoms get worse,
that’s called an asthma attack. Narrator: Asthma affects people
of all ages, but it most often starts
in childhood. In the United States,
more than 22 million people are known to have asthma. Nearly six million are
children. Asthma is
a long-term disease that can’t be cured,
but it can be controlled. Most people with asthma live
normal, active lives by taking a proactive role
and managing their disease. The goal of asthma treatment
is to control the symptoms. Narrator: If your asthma
is under control, you can avoid troubling
symptoms, like being short of breath
or coughing, so you can keep up
with normal activities. You can also reduce the amount
of medicine that you need, prevent asthma attacks,
and avoid going to the hospital. Weinmann: We want children
with asthma to be able to go to school and to play
as much as they want, adults with asthma to be able
to exercise, and we want everyone to be able
to get a good night’s sleep. And, of course, we want
to prevent asthma attacks. Narrator: One way that you can
keep your asthma under control is to partner with your doctor
to create an asthma action plan. An action plan is a written,
customized guide to taking your medicines
properly, avoiding factors
that can cause a flare-up, and treating other conditions
that can interfere with asthma control. You can prepare the plan
with your doctor and with other
health care providers. For children, this may mean
the school nurse. The National Heart, Lung
and Blood Institute has developed
an asthma action plan you can download
from our Web site. Weinmann: In the asthma
action plan, it will have details about how
to manage your asthma every day, what medications to take
and when, what kind of monitoring
to do, what to do if the symptoms of
your asthma are getting worse, and when you should go to the emergency room,
if necessary. I work very closely
with the doctors, and I am a parent who really
wants to understand things. I don’t necessarily just want
a medicine to treat her, I want to understand
how we can help her now and then what we would do
going forward. Anna does have
a written action plan. It’s something that we meet with
the doctor on frequently and we adjust as necessary. It’s been maintained
and pretty consistent for, it will be
a couple of years now. Narrator: The NHLBI action plan
is easy to use. When you’re in what we call
the green zone, symptoms are under control and you can go about
your usual activities. If you’re in the yellow zone,
your asthma is getting worse and you’ll need to add a quick relief medicine
like an inhaler and limit some activities until
symptoms go away and you’re back
in the green zone. If symptoms persist, or you have
trouble walking or talking, or your lips or fingernails
are turning blue, you’re in the red zone. You’ll be directed to take
other medicines and call your doctor
right away. If you’re still in the red zone
after 15 minutes and you haven’t been able
to reach your doctor, you should call 911 immediately. An asthma action plan puts you
in control. To get your copy of
the NHLBI asthma action plan, visit the NHLBI Web site
at and download the form. You can also order
a copy online or by calling the NHLBI
health information center at 301-592-8573.

6 thoughts on “Living With and Managing Asthma

  1. Thanks for your comment. Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. This contributes to sensitivity, which makes the airways react to a variety of exposures such as inhaled allergens, pollutants, tobacco smoke, cold air, exercise, or stress. You can learn more about asthma on the NHLBI website, including in our Health Topics section.

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