Having asthma means adjusting lifestyles. Maybe your patients can’t keep their windows open, even on a beautiful day. Maybe they will begin to wheeze or cough while trying to have a conversation. Maybe they will need to say no to their child’s plea for a pet. An inability to breathe translates into an inability to do the things we take for granted every day: walking, doing chores, working, and sleeping. These restrictions may make your patients depressed, frustrated, or angry.
As a healthcare provider, it’s good to know that there are things you can do to help alleviate your patients’ suffering. In most cases, a few simple lifestyle adaptations can help your asthma patients improve their everyday life.
The most important thing for your patients with asthma to do is quit smoking. It’s also a good idea for them to avoid secondhand smoke.
Patients with asthma should try to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can worsen asthma symptoms, and it puts your patients at higher risk for other health problems.
The flu can also cause symptom flare-ups for patients with asthma. Flu shots and pneumococcal vaccines may help reduce their risk of asthma attacks.
The goal of pulmonary rehabilitation is to help improve the well-being of patients with COPD. A healthcare team provides programs to help patients stay active and carry out their daily activities. But specific components of pulmonary rehabilitation, such as patient education, respiratory physiotherapy, and aerobic exercise training, may be effective for asthma, too. However, data to support complete pulmonary rehabilitation in the long term is sparse. A clinical randomized controlled trial called Effectiveness of Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Asthma (EPRA) has been mobilized in the United States in 2017 to determine whether and how long asthma control improves after pulmonary rehabilitation.
Common Sense Tips
Here are some other suggestions to help your patients who may have trouble breathing:
- Make sure your patients follow the asthma action plan that you helped them create
- Make sure patients monitor and record breathing
- Teach patients to identify and treat attacks early to avoid a more severe attack
- Follow up with patients to ensure they are taking their medications as prescribed
- Make sure patients keep track of the number of times they use quick-relief medications
Encourage patients to limit their environmental exposure by:
- Using air conditioning whenever possible to reduce the amount of airborne pollen coming indoors, and staying indoors on high-pollen days
- Using a dehumidifier if they live in a damp climate
- Preventing mold spores by cleaning damp areas in the bath and kitchen and getting rid of damp firewood and moldy leaves in the yard
- Keeping the house clean and dust-free; removing carpeting and installing hardwood or linoleum flooring instead, if possible
- Wearing scarves over their noses and mouths when it’s cold outside
- Reducing pet dander, especially if they are allergic to it
Also encourage patients to:
- Exercise regularly: it can strengthen their heart and lungs and help relieve symptoms
- Talk to other people about their condition. Support groups made up of people facing similar challenges can give your patients insights and let them know they are not alone
- Work with their healthcare provider to control heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), both of which can damage the lung airways and make asthma symptoms worse3
And, most importantly, emphasize the need to call their healthcare provider if symptoms become worse!