Are you living with asthma?
Did you know that your pharmacist can help you better control it, including adjusting and optimizing your medication, as well as helping you develop an effective treatment plan? Read more about asthma management here.
Are you among the thousands of Canadians who struggle with asthma symptoms? Don't worry! Asthma can be controlled.
Asthma, a brief overview
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease affecting the bronchi, the small tubes that bring air to the lungs. Typical effects are as follows:
- swelling of the airway lining (inflammation)
- production of mucus inside the bronchi, and
- spasms and contractions of the small muscles surrounding the bronchi
These changes lead to the constriction (narrowing) of the airways, making air circulation more difficult. The more significant the inflammation of the bronchi, the more the airways tend to constrict and narrow. People with uncontrolled asthma typically find it difficult to breathe and often have a cough.
A few basic principles
Asthma control hinges on a few fundamental principles:
- Avoid asthma triggers (e.g. pollen, dust mites, animal hair, tobacco smoke, stress, intense emotions, chemicals, etc.)
- Take the appropriate medications to prevent inflammation, mucus production and airway constriction
- Prevent damage to airways caused by asthma
Medications are generally needed to treat asthma. These medications fall into two categories:
- controller medications
- reliever or rescue medications
Controller medications help prevent asthma symptoms and attacks. They are usually taken once or twice a day. The first class of controller medications is cortisone-based (corticosteroids). These drugs are formulated to be given in low doses directly into the airways and are used to prevent and control inflammation. They usually cause few side effects.
The second class of medications is called long-acting bronchodilators. When inhaled, these drugs relax the small muscles surrounding the airways, allowing better air flow. Their effect can last up to 12 hours. There are inhalation devices that combine medications from both these classes.
Other classes of supportive drugs come in tablet form. They are also used to reduce bronchial inflammation and are taken once a day. Finally, there is a last type of treatment administered by injection. They are reserved for more severe cases that are resistant to other treatment methods. Your pharmacist can provide you with information on these treatments.
Reliever (or rescue) medications are taken as needed to quickly ease asthma symptoms. They help relax the muscles that surround the bronchi. Reliever medications, called fast-acting bronchodilators, have the following characteristics:
- they come in the form of an inhaler. For metered dose inhalers, the use of a spacer can ensure better administration.
- they are fast-acting (in just a few minutes)
- they can ease mild symptoms
- they can be used before physical activity, and
- they are not useful for long-term asthma control
Your pharmacist can provide you with information concerning all the important aspects of asthma medications.
An action plan
The asthma action plan is a useful reference guide for anyone living with this condition. It contains various information intended to make asthma management easier by taking into account various factors. Among other things, it mentions the changes to be made to the medication, depending on the asthma symptoms experienced. The action plan helps the person with asthma to act quickly, as soon as symptoms appear. It can also help avoid making a medical appointment or having to miss work or school.
This essential tool is written in conjunction with the physician or other healthcare professional. It aims to make people more independent and involved in the management of their condition. It is advisable to refer to it often and, above all, to update it regularly to ensure that the information it contains reflects the reality of the person living with asthma.
A question of commitment—and consistency
Asthma can be controlled if it is taken seriously. Making appropriate lifestyle changes, taking the necessary medication regularly, careful monitoring, and following medical recommendations are all keys to success. People who are committed and willing to make the necessary effort can lead an active life with very little discomfort. If you live with asthma, it’s up to you to make your respiratory health a priority!
Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about asthma and its treatments.