Asthma has a variety of symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. If you suffer from asthma, you may feel these symptoms from time to time, but it shouldn’t make you feel powerless.
Whether you’re training for a marathon or taking daily walks in the park, there’s a lot you can do to manage your asthma symptoms and take control of your situation.
Secure a Diagnosis
The best way to treat asthma is with the help of your doctor, so make sure to speak to them about an official diagnosis.
“If you have any shortness of breath, wheezing, or unexplained cough, know that it could be asthma,” says Hemant Shah, MD, medical director of respiratory care and the ICU at Kettering Medical Center. “Have your doctor check you out before you do competitive sports so that you have a clear diagnosis of asthma and you’re aware of the next steps.”
Find your triggers
Your physician can work with you to develop a plan to keep your asthma under control so you can live a healthy, active life.
The first step is to identify your asthma triggers. These are irritants and allergens that cause your symptoms to flare up. Triggers vary from person to person but may include dust, animal dander, tobacco smoke, mold, pollen, polluted air, and chemical from products.
“Everyone’s triggers could be different,” says Dr. Shah. “It could be weather change, being exposed to certain perfumes, new jerseys or outfits, or new laundry detergent.”
Keep symptoms in check
Dr. Shah recommends speaking to your doctor about what to do if you have a flare of your symptoms, especially before participating in sports or rigorous physical activity. While asthma treatment may vary, frequently, an inhaler will be prescribed.
“Some inhalers require a spacer or chamber for more efficient delivery,” Dr. Shah says. “Make sure you know how to use it correctly.”
Asthma treatment falls into two categories: preventative and rescue. If you have a preventative inhaler, be sure to take it even if you feel well. The rescue inhaler is to be used specifically when you have a flare of your symptoms.
“When you’re in competitive sports, you may want to let your athletic director know,” Dr. Shah says.
Though many treatments will help prevent and treat symptoms of asthma, if you are having symptoms, you need to pause and take care of your asthma so that it does not worsen.
Prepare for emergencies
If your symptoms do progress into a serious attack, you’ll need to know what to do. If you have trouble walking or talking because you’re out of breath, or your lips or fingernails are blue, call 911 or get to the nearest emergency center immediately. Click here to find your nearest emergency center.
Play with confidence
“Just because you have asthma doesn’t mean you can’t play competitive sports,” Dr. Shah says. “Athletes like Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Venus Williams have asthma. It shouldn’t stop you from winning the medals or races that you want but taking care of it is important.”
To find a physician to speak to about asthma, visit our website.