7 Tips for Living With Severe Asthma

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Susan Fishman, NCC, CRC on February 23, 2022
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    You’re in control.
    While living with severe asthma can be serious, it can also be downright annoying, disrupting your everyday activities and lifestyle. But you don’t have to put up with symptoms. Even people with severe asthma can stay healthy and active. You can start with a few smart steps to control your asthma, instead of allowing your asthma to control you.
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    1. Get vaccinated.
    Severe asthma can become worse when you have certain infections, like a cold or the flu. Your constricted airways can narrow even more, making it harder to breathe. To stay healthy and prevent infections, be sure to get an annual flu shot and any other vaccinations your doctor recommends, such as a pneumococcal vaccination for pnemonia.
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    2. Mind your triggers.
    It may seem obvious to avoid things that cause your asthma symptoms, but first you have to identify what those things are. One of the best ways to do this is to keep a record of where you were and what you were doing when you notice your symptoms, or when they get worse. Jot down everything in the past day or so, and then you can start narrowing it down. Avoid the triggers you can, and talk to your doctor about help for those you can’t avoid, such as cold weather.
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    3. Stay on top of your medications.
    People with severe asthma often take more than one prescribed medication. It’s important to take your medications regularly and use devices properly in order to keep symptoms at bay. Ask your doctor or nurse to show you how to use your inhaler and spacer to be sure the medication is working for you. You may also want to use a peak flow meter, which allows you to monitor your breathing, before any symptoms occur. Also let your doctor know about any vitamins or natural supplements you may be taking as these can sometimes interfere with your asthma treatment.
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    4. Catch your breath.
    Research shows stress is strongly associated with asthma, and it may even lead to increased hospitalizations and the use of medicines. Try some deep breathing exercises or meditation to help keep your stress under control. You don’t need a specific technique or special pillow to do it. There are many apps, such as “Breethe,” “Headspace,” and “Calm,” to help keep you in the practice of controlling your stress. Most even have a 5-minute meditation practice for when you’re on the go and can’t make some serious “ohm” time.
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    5. Keep up with exercise.
    Severe asthma doesn’t have to keep you from exercising. In fact, it’s still just as important to get exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, which can keep you feeling better overall. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, like fast walking, five times a week. If you’re keeping up with your treatment, exercise shouldn’t trigger any symptoms, but you may want to keep your inhaler handy and use it just before you warm up. If you do have symptoms during or after exercise, talk to your doctor about modifying your treatment plan.
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    6. Try the Mediterranean Diet.
    Some health experts recommend an anti-inflammatory diet to help reduce the inflammation that contributes to chronic diseases like asthma. Much like the Mediterranean Diet, this consists of healthy fats, fiber-rich fruits and veggies, lots of water and limited amounts of animal protein (except oily fish, such as salmon). A healthy diet can also keep your weight under control, which can help with asthma symptoms.
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    7. Get some good sleep.
    If severe asthma keeps you up most nights with coughing, wheezing or restlessness, you probably know how this can affect you during the day, making it harder to concentrate or perform at work. The best way to improve your sleep is to stay on top of your asthma treatment plan. You can also try a humidifier in your bedroom to make breathing easier. Sometimes sleep disturbance can be a side effect of asthma medication, so be sure to talk to your doctor if your asthma seems to be affecting your sleep. He or she may prescribe an alternate medication or treatment so you can rest easier.
Living With Severe Asthma | Asthma Tips
  1. Living with Asthma. NHS Choices. NHS UK. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/living-with/
  2. NACI in Action: Patients, Families and Caregivers. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-pro/resources/lung/naci/audiences/patients-families.htm
  3. 7 Lifestyle Tips to Manage Your Asthma. U.S. News & World Report. https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/slideshows/7-lifestyle-tips-to-manage-your-asthma?slide=7
  4. Preventing Asthma Episodes and Controlling Your Asthma. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. http://www.aafa.org/page/asthma-prevention.aspx
  5. Asthma and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/asthma-and-sleep
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Last Review Date: 2022 Feb 23
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.