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Understanding Asthma

Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack.


There is a lot you can do to keep asthma symptoms from flaring up. See your doctor to MAKE AN ASTHMA ACTION PLAN. If you already have an action plan, see your doctor regularly to make sure it is working well. Your asthma plan can:

  • help you identify your triggers and ways to avoid them;
  • help keep your symptoms under control; and
  • prepare for emergencies.

Find Your Triggers

Your doctor can work with you to make a plan that will help keep your asthma under control. When you manage your asthma, you can live a healthy, active life.

The first step is to learn your asthma triggers. These are irritants and allergens that cause your symptoms. Everyone’s triggers are different. They may include dust, animal dander, tobacco smoke, mold, pollen, polluted air and chemicals from products such as hair spray.

Your doctor can teach you how to reduce your exposure to triggers.

Keep Symptoms In Check

The next step is to take medicines that help prevent and control your asthma symptoms. Most people with asthma use both long-term and fast-relief medicines.

Long-term medicines help keep the airways open and can prevent asthma symptoms from flaring up. They come in both inhaled and pill form and should be used daily as advised by your doctor.

Fast-relief medicines can help control asthma symptoms when they occur. You should carry a quick-relief inhaler during the day and use it as directed.

Your doctor also may recommend using a peak flow meter. When you blow into the device, it displays a number that shows how well your lungs are working. Your doctor will help you determine your personal best peak flow number. When your peak flow meter shows this number, your asthma is under control.

Prepare For Emergencies

You’ll also need to know what to do if you have a serious asthma attack. You should call your doctor if:

  • Your medicines don’t provide relief.
  • Your peak flow number is less than half of your personal best.

And you should call 911 if:

  • You have trouble walking or talking because you’re out of breath.
  • Your lips or fingernails are blue.

Your doctor can give you further advice on what to do in an asthma emergency.

Asthma Facts
Asthma Triggers
Asthma and Schools

Sources: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Ready, Set, Create Your Plan!

Everyone with asthma needs their own Asthma Action Plan. Work with your health care provider to create a plan that works for you. Your goal is to prevent and control your asthma attacks.

Create your own plan using CDC’s

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