The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program recommend that asthma is monitored closely. This is because asthma can vary over time. When you first start treatment for asthma, your doctor should follow-up with you every 2-6 weeks to ensure that your treatment is effective. After this, your doctor should follow-up with you every 1-6 months to check that you are on the best medication for you. In your follow-up appointments, your doctor will check that you understand the symptoms of an asthma attack, that you know how to avoid flare-ups and that you use your inhaler properly. They may also talk to you about controlling environmental factors that may trigger your asthma and changes to your treatment plan.
Asthma is managed through medications that relieve or prevent asthma attacks. Often the first treatment you are prescribed will be a Reliever inhaler such as Ventolin or Salamol. This contains a bronchodilator, which means that it will widen and relax your airway when you take it. This is designed to be taken when you begin to experience asthmatic symptoms, as and when you need it.
Asthma is managed using a stepwise therapy method. This means that the first goal is to stabilize your symptoms. Then different medications can be added or removed and your dosages can be adjusted to the severity of your symptoms or to minimize any side effects.
If your asthma is more severe, or if you have been unable to manage your asthma using just Reliever inhalers, you may also be prescribed a Preventer inhaler. Preventer inhalers contain steroids, which help to protect you from an asthma attack occurring in the first place. Preventer inhalers should be taken daily to prevent asthma attacks.
If your asthma symptoms are not controlled by using both a Reliever and a Preventer inhaler, you may be prescribed a combination inhaler such as Seretide or Symbicort. These inhalers combine ingredients from Reliever inhalers and Preventer inhalers. They are also taken every day and they help to manage your asthma symptoms and to prevent asthma attacks.
As part of your asthma treatment, it may be recommended that you avoid allergens that might trigger your asthma. Skin testing or lab tests should be done to assess your sensitivity to different allergens. This will help you to identify potential triggers and how you can avoid them. Some of the methods to avoid allergen exposure are listed here:
- Keeping a clean home to keep dust and other allergens under control
- Using air filters to remove allergens from the air
- Dehumidifiers and extractor fans can help to reduce mold growth
- Carpets can be replaced with hardwood or solid surface floors to reduce dust and dust mites
- Ensuring that chemicals such as cleaning products are used in well-ventilated areas.