Following treatment plan key to managing asthma

Pulmonologist examines the lungs. The concept of pulmonology and a healthy respiratory system. Medicine vector illustration

If you’re one of the 500,000 people currently living with asthma in Tennessee, you probably know what it feels like to have an asthma attack. Your chest tightens, and you may begin to cough and wheeze. In short, it’s hard to breathe.

However, sticking to your asthma treatment plan can help you reduce the chances of experiencing an attack. It can also provide guidance for what to do if you experience a flare-up. Following your treatment plan can have a significant impact on effective management of this chronic lung condition.

WellTuned spoke with Dr. Andrew Vernon, medical director for sleep medicine for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, about the importance of diligently managing your asthma so you can live your best life.

What is an asthma treatment plan?

Dr. Vernon: Everyone with asthma should have an asthma treatment plan. This is also known as an Asthma Action Plan. It’s designed to help you control asthma symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. It also tells you what to do if your asthma starts getting worse.

This written asthma action plan should be developed with your doctor and tailored to your individual needs and severity of your asthma. It should include information on:

  • specific triggers that make your symptoms of asthma appear or worsen
  • medications that you need to take to control your asthma symptoms
  • when to seek emergency help

Typically, an action plan will have three sections (or zones) that are divided by color, like a traffic light:

Green: This is where you want to be on a daily basis. Keep taking any long-term control medications that your doctor has prescribed, even though you’re feeling fine.

Yellow: You may start experiencing some asthma symptoms. You may need to slow down and use your quick-acting relief inhaler to keep your asthma from getting worse.

Red: You’re experiencing a flare-up or serious asthma symptoms. Your plan should include steps on what to do next, which may include calling your doctor or even going to the emergency department.

How to follow your treatment plan

Dr. Vernon: With proper treatment and management, people can live full and active lives. You just have to play an active role in the “management” part of that approach.

That includes:

  • Learning what your triggers are so you can avoid them or at least minimize their impact
  • Taking your asthma medications exactly as prescribed to control your asthma
  • Not skipping any doses of your medication because you’re feeling well at the time
  • Not ignoring symptoms when they seem to get worse.

Why you need to stick to your treatment plan

Dr. Vernon: Not following your treatment plan can lead to increased asthma symptoms. In turn, that can make it harder for you to breathe, which also makes it hard to exercise and even to sleep. Left untreated, a serious asthma attack can be life-threatening, and you may find yourself in the emergency department or the hospital.

Other complications from not following your asthma treatment plan can include pneumonia and cardiovascular disease.

“Asthma is a chronic condition, but it doesn’t have to stop you from doing the things that you enjoy,” says Dr. Vernon. “It’s important to see your doctor on a regular basis so they can make sure your treatment plan is working. They may need to alter parts of your plan to make sure your asthma continues to be managed effectively.”

More on asthma from WellTuned.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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