Managing and Controlling Your Asthma

Asthma is defined as a chronic condition, which means you need to continuously monitor and control your asthma over a lifetime. The cause of asthma is not fully understood, and currently there is no cure. The up side is that there are many things you can do to effectively control your asthma so you can live symptom-free. Asthma treatment is successful if you learn all you can about your asthma including: symptoms, triggers, medications and ongoing asthma management to achieve control. You and you alone know how you feel and how your asthma is affecting you and you need to be responsible for acting when your asthma is not in good control.

Many people with asthma believe that their asthma is controlled but in fact, surveys have shown that most people accept levels of asthma control that fall far short of the standards described in the Canadian Consensus Asthma Guidelines. In order to control your asthma it is very important that you actually understand what good asthma control means.

How can I tell if my asthma is well-controlled?

You have good asthma control if you:

  1. Do not have any breathing difficulties, cough or wheeze most days
  2. Sleep through the night without wakening with cough, wheeze or chest tightness
  3. Can exercise without cough, wheeze or chest tightness
  4. Do not miss work or school because of asthma
  5. Have a normal  breathing (spirometry) test
  6.  Do not need your reliever inhaler 4 or more times a week (except for use with exercise)

The interactive quiz How Much is Too Much can also help you figure out if you have good asthma control.

If your asthma is poorly controlled, it might be because you are:

  1. Not using the right asthma medication that is best for you. Understanding all of the asthma treatments available can be confusing so talk to your Doctor or Asthma Educator and visit the “Asthma Medication” section of the website.
  2. Not using your inhalers properly.  Show your doctor or Asthma Educator or Pharmacist how you use your inhalers to make sure your use is correct and visit the “Correct Inhaler Technique” section of the website.
  3. Not using your controller medication regularly. Use your controller medication every day as prescribed by your doctor. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your asthma medications and doses.
  4. Exposed to a trigger that is causing breathing problems. Identify what triggers make your asthma worse and stay away from them. Visit the to find more information about things that can make your asthma worse and learn how to avoid common asthma triggers.

Over time, poorly controlled asthma can cause permanent damage to your airways that cannot be reversed. This is called ‘airway remodeling’. It is important to have proper treatment for your asthma to avoid this permanent damage.

If your asthma is not well controlled, talk to your doctor or asthma educator about your symptoms. You can gain control of your asthma by:

  • Taking your prescribed controller asthma medications on a regular basis to minimize your symptoms and reduce inflammation of the airways.
  • Avoiding your personal triggers
  • Following your written Asthma Action Plan in case of an asthma exacerbation
  • Discussing your asthma with your doctor on a regular basis so that your symptoms can be monitored and your treatments adjusted if necessary