May is Asthma Awareness Month. The American Lung Association is taking part by empowering the approximately 25 million people living in the United States who suffer from asthma to learn how to move beyond just coping with symptoms to taking active control of the disease.

Asthma Image/United States National Institute of Health: Heart, Llung and Blood Institute
Image/United States National Institute of Health: Heart, Llung and Blood Institute

“People with poorly controlled asthma often experience more missed work and school than those without asthma,” said Dr. Albert A. Rizzo, senior medical advisor of the American Lung Association. “School absences can have a detrimental impact on a child’s academic performance and underscore the urgent need to take proven steps to reduce the frequency of debilitating symptoms and flare ups.”

Common symptoms that shouldn’t be tolerated on a regular basis include: wheezing, frequent coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

“Chances are, if you’re using a quick-relief inhaler more than twice a week, other than in a preventive manner prior to exercise, then your asthma is not properly controlled and requires timely medical attention,” said Rizzo.

The American Lung Association offers five tips for taking control of asthma to begin breathing better and leading a healthier, more active life:

1. Schedule a Checkup. Managing asthma requires working with a qualified healthcare professional. For some, the first step may require obtaining healthcare insurance coverage. At minimum, people with asthma should see their healthcare provider once a year and use this time to review their asthma action plan. Those with poorly controlled asthma should work with their healthcare provider to schedule follow-up visits more frequently.

2. Get Tested for Allergies. Asthma and allergies often go hand-in-hand. People with asthma who experience frequent or seasonal symptoms that are not controlled by asthma medicines, should talk to their healthcare provider about a simple blood or skin scratch test. An allergy test can alert asthma sufferers to their specific allergy triggers so they can be eliminated or avoided to prevent symptom flare-ups. There are also specific medications available for allergic asthma that may help. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment plan to take control of your asthma.

3. Increase Your Asthma Knowledge and Awareness. Controlling asthma requires a strong understanding of asthma and its potential triggers, along with daily self-management skills. This allows those with asthma to better be able to recognize their signs and symptoms and properly adapt their environments and lifestyle to minimize exposure to asthma triggers. Parents of children with asthma must take the additional step of understanding the impact the disease has on developing lungs in order to be the best advocate for their child at school and elsewhere.

 4. Reduce Exposure to Asthma Triggers. From cleaning products to stress, where people live, work, learn and play can be filled with triggers for people with asthma. Among working adults with asthma, 21.5 percent report their symptoms are made worse from exposure to indoor air pollution found at their worksite. The American Lung Association’s Guide to Controlling Asthma at Work can help working adults with asthma learn the steps to prevent asthma symptoms.

 5. Protect your lungs from air pollution. Just less than half of the nation is living and working in communities where pollution makes the air unhealthy to breathe. Knowing the state of your community’s air in addition to checking the air quality forecast each morning can help those with asthma minimize exposure on poor air quality days.

“The good news is that it’s possible to live a very active lifestyle and still have asthma,” Rizzo said. “However, when asthma is not properly controlled, people with asthma are at an increased risk of needing emergency treatment and care. Take the time to educate yourself about asthma during Asthma Awareness Month, it may just save yourself a trip to the emergency room.”