Spring into action to control your asthma
5/8/2023 by Joy Fladager-Muth, APRN, C.N.P.
One of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was a disruption in health care appointments for general medical care. Lockdowns, social distancing measures and fear of exposure to the virus resulted in fewer medical visits for routine follow-up, including common chronic diseases like asthma. The risk of poorly controlled asthma increases with a decrease in timely and appropriate medical care for adults and children with asthma. Since spring is a peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, it is an important time to review aspects of good asthma control.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in 13 people in the United States have asthma. As of 2021, the CDC reported:
- More than 25 million Americans have asthma and 4.2 million are under the age of 18.
- Boys are more likely to have asthma than girls, but women are more likely to have asthma than men.
- There are more than 1.2 million emergency room visits for asthma every year.
- Asthma is the second-leading cause of hospital stays in children younger than 15.
- Ten Americans die from asthma each day.
- Adults are six times more likely than children to die from asthma.
Determining if your asthma is under good control involves monitoring symptoms and the ability to engage in regular activities. No matter the severity level, these factors indicate that asthma is well controlled.
- Minimal or no troublesome symptoms, such as coughing or shortness of breath.
- Participation in normal activities (e.g., exercise, playing sports, attending school or work, etc.).
- Sleeping through the night.
- Minimal or no need for quick-relief medicines — less than twice a week during the day or twice a month at night.
- Maintenance of best lung function, as measured by spirometry tests.
- One or fewer asthma attacks per year that result in an emergency room visit or hospitalization.
- Use of oral corticosteroids once or less per year.
Poorly controlled or uncontrolled asthma can develop suddenly or come on slowly. These factors are indicators that asthma isn't being controlled:
- Symptoms, such as frequent coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath, start to occur more often or become more severe.
- Symptoms occur at night, causing sleep disruption.
- Limiting or stopping activities due to asthma symptoms.
- Missing school or work because of asthma symptoms.
- Asthma medicines don't seem to work anymore.
- Using a quick-relief inhaler more than two times a week.
- Having to go to the emergency room or see a health care clinician because of an asthma attack.
It is important to communicate regularly with your health care clinician and follow recommendations for monitoring and managing asthma. Patients with asthma should have a minimum of one visit with their health care clinician each year to assess asthma control and adjust treatment as needed. They should also have annual screening of lung function with pulmonary function testing, primarily spirometry. Patients may need more frequent visits with their health care clinician, more frequent spirometry or pulmonary function testing, and/or more medication adjustments during periods of poor asthma control.
Just like the changing of the seasons, asthma may change over time, and it's important to stay ahead of it. Regular visits with your health care clinician provide an opportunity to monitor your asthma control, address any concerns or questions you may have and work together to optimize your treatment plan. Taking control of your asthma is important to maintain your current level of activity and overall well-being. Don't hesitate to schedule a follow-up visit to ensure that your asthma is well controlled.
Joy Fladager Muth, APRN, C.N.P., is a pediatric nurse practitioner in the Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. She is one of eight pediatric clinicians serving as Integrated Community Specialists. In this role, Joy provides expert asthma care and consulting services for primary care pediatric patients with asthma, in collaboration with Mayo's Pediatric Pulmonology and Pediatric Allergy specialty clinicians.