to feel 100% well. And in other cases, asthma attacks can be potentially fatal. In 2011, 69 Kiwis died as a result of asthma – that’s more than one a week.
Asthma symptoms include:
• Being short of breath
• Feeling a tightness in your chest
• Having a persistent cough.
Asthma cannot be cured, but if you or your children have it, you’re likely to be able to better control it if you have a self-management plan in place. This is set up in conjunction with your doctor or other respiratory experts, and helps you to deal with your symptoms, along with providing strategies to put in place if you start feeling worse. The best ways of managing your asthma are:
• Allergies, such as to pets, dust mites, pollen
• Having a cold or the flu
• Cold weather
• Mouldy or damp homes
• Fumes, like from car exhausts, strong perfumes, aerosol cleaning sprays and cigarette smoke
• Some medications, including aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, some beta blockers and some drugs prescribed for heart disease, blood pressure and eye conditions
• Hormonal changes due to menstruation or menopause
• Taking your medication as it has been prescribed
• Quitting smoking and avoiding other people’s cigarette smoke
• Using a peak flow meter. These devices show how fast you can blow out air and are a good way of monitoring the health of your airways
• Staying active. Although exercise can sometimes bring on an asthma attack, it also helps you to stay fit and healthy
• Having regular check-ups. See your doctor or other medical professionals who specialise in asthma to check that you’ve got things under control.
Exercise-induced asthma is not a lot of fun and knowing you could end up wheezing or struggling to breathe puts many people off being physically active. But exercise is important when you’ve got asthma because it improves lung capacity and blood flow. Research shows that people who are active usually have fewer asthma symptoms and cope better when they do have an attack.
• Know your body. If you are having trouble controlling your asthma – for example, you are experiencing symptoms three or more times a week – you may need to get it sorted before you try to be too active. If you have a cold that will make breathing difficult, do not attempt to exercise until you are better.
• Take precautions against the cold. Breathing in cold air can trigger asthma attacks in some people. If you are out in cool air or exercising in an air-conditioned place, you may want to tie a thin scarf loosely around the lower half of your face, which will warm the air you breathe.
• Take slow deep breaths through your nose. Don’t hold your breath.
• Warm up before you start.
• Take a couple of puffs of your reliever medicine, such as Ventolin, to open up your airways before you are physically active.