Asthma is a complex disease that researchers believe is
caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Many genes have
been linked to asthma. There are also many environmental factors connected to
asthma in children. With so many variables, preventing the development of
asthma can be challenging, if not impossible.
Asthma prevention focuses on preventing attacks. Here are
some expert tips and advice on avoiding asthma attacks.
Avoiding Triggers and Allergens
Breathing in something that triggers inflammation in the
airways usually brings on asthma attacks. These attacks, along with the mucous
that accompanies them, close up the airways. The best way to prevent asthma
attacks is to identify and avoid these triggers as best you can.
Air Filtration System
Air filters can help rid your home of common asthma
triggers, including most mold, pollen, dust mites, and other allergens. The best
systems use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. According to the Asthma and
Allergy Foundation of America, these can clear the air of up to 99.9
percent of pollutants. Air filtration is recommended to control asthma
triggers. But asthma sufferers should not rely on air filtration alone to
control their symptoms.
These devices increase moisture level in the air with water
vapor. If cleaned and maintained properly, humidifiers can help ease asthma
symptoms for some sufferers.
Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots, works to enhance
or suppress the immune system. The goal of immunotherapy is to reduce
sensitivity to allergens over time. For the first few months the injections are
usually given once a week. Eventually, they may be given only once a month.
This can go on for several years until the immune system is desensitized.
If you cannot avoid allergy triggers, talk to your doctor
about whether immunotherapy may be an option for you.
Using Preventive Medication
Using asthma medication is really a two-prong approach.
First, you will likely use your meds on a regular basis to prevent attacks. But
in addition, taking action at the first sign of asthma symptoms is the key to
Some are taken through an inhaler, some orally, and some by
injection. A few of the more common preventative medications include the
These act like natural hormones and block inflammation.
While steroids are the strongest drugs for asthma, their long-term side effects
make them less desirable for regular use.
These medications work by counteracting leukotrienes. Leukotrienes
are substances released by white blood cells in the lung that cause the air
passages to constrict.
Beta agonists are used for preventing attacks triggered by
exercise and sports activities. These medications are bronchodilators, and they
work by relaxing the airways, allowing you to breathe easier.
Testing Lung Function
It's essential to monitor how well your asthma medications
are working by testing your lung function regularly. You can use a peak
flow meter to measure the amount of air flowing from your
lungs. This self-administered test can reveal narrowing of the airways before
the onset of symptoms.
You can determine what triggers an asthma attack, when to
stop or add medication, and when to seek emergency medical care by using a peak
flow meter to establish some baseline measurements, and then regularly checking
your peak flow rate.
Asthma Action Plan
Asthma experts, including those at the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), recommend developing an asthma action plan with your
doctor to help control your asthma. The plan will document important
information such as your daily medications, how to handle asthma attacks, and
how to control your asthma symptoms long term.
Most plans, including the one recommended by the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (part of the NIH), have three asthma zones
color-coded according to severity. These help those with asthma monitor the
severity of their symptoms.
Green Zone: “Doing Well”
asthma symptoms during the day or night
to perform casual activities
Yellow Zone: “Asthma is
such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
at night due to asthma symptoms
to perform some but not all normal activities
same or worse for 24 hours
Red Zone: “Medical Alert!”
short of breath
medications not helping
to perform normal activities