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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Managing Asthma

Asthma can be an unpredictable disease. You may feel fine one day or only have mild symptoms, and then on another day, sometimes for no apparent reason, you may experience severe symptoms that may limit your activities. Severe symptoms can be life-threatening and should not be ignored. To manage your symptoms and make you feel more stable, it's best to work closely with your doctor.

Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Usually people with asthma have few symptoms and live normal, active lives. If you have asthma, there are some things you can do to help reduce your symptoms.

Control Your Symptoms

Your most important asthma medicine is what we refer to as your "controller" inhaler. This inhaler contains an inhaled steroid that helps strengthen your lungs. For this medicine to work correctly, it is every important that you use it every day, even when you do not have any symptoms.

Use Your Inhalers Correctly

You will probably be given two types of inhalers. One ("controller") is meant to be taken every day to control your symptoms, and the other ("rescue inhaler") is meant to help you breathe if you have a flare-up of your symptoms, commonly known as an asthma attack.

For inhalers to work, you have to use them correctly. It's important to ask your doctor how to use your inhaler(s) so you will get the proper dosage of medication. Not getting enough or getting too much medicine can both make your condition worse.

Pay Attention to Asthma Signs & Symptoms

If your asthma symptoms are getting worse, you should get in touch with your doctor immediately. If you have trouble talking, talking or lying down because of asthma symptoms, you should call 911 right away to be taken to the nearest emergency room. Asthma symptoms can get worse quickly, and severe symptoms can be life-threatening, so it's important to listen to your body and get medical attention if you have severe symptoms.

Be Aware of Signs That Your Asthma is Getting Worse

If you notice any of the following signs, contact your doctor:

  • Increasing frequency of your symptoms
  • Loss of sleep due to your symptoms
  • Missing school or work because of asthma
  • Your peak flow meter number goes down
  • Your asthma medicines don't seem to be working well
  • You need to use your "rescue inhaler" more often (more than 2 days per week).

Avoid Your Asthma Triggers

Most people with asthma have allergies such as hay fever, eczema or rashes. To control your asthma, you should:

  • Avoid things you're allergic to
  • Avoid being around smoke (and definitely don't smoke, yourself)
  • Avoid spending time around people with coughs, colds and the flu
  • Avoid being outside in very humid or very cold weather

Contact Us

If you have or think you may have asthma, we urge you to seek treatment as soon as possible. If you don’t have a physician, and you’d like to make an appointment with someone who understands asthma and how to successfully manage it, please call our Asthma-COPD Program at 312-695-1800.

You may  also make an appointment by calling our Physician Referral Department at 1-877-926-4664, or you can request a first time appointment online.

Last UpdateAugust 24, 2012