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How Can I Control My Asthma? – In Adult

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes episodes of difficulty in breathing. Asthma symptoms are caused primarily by chronic inflammation of the airways. This makes the airways of the patient with asthma highly sensitive to various trigger factors.

When the airways inflammation is triggered by any types of external or internal triggering factors, the airways will be swell and filled with mucus. Muscles within the airways will contract which can lead to further narrowing of the airways. The airways narrowing makes it difficult for the air to be breathed in and out from the lungs and it will lead to various symptoms of asthma. Asthma can affect people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood.

How do I know if my asthma is uncontrolled?

Early recognition of uncontrolled asthma is important to prevent worsening of asthma symptoms and to avoid severe asthma attacks. Not recognizing symptoms of uncontrolled asthma might delay care and put the patient at risk for hospitalization or even a life-threatening asthma attack.

Symptoms that are suggestive of uncontrolled asthma

  • Increased night time cough and/or wheezing
  • Increased day time cough and/ or wheezing
  • Cough and/ or wheezing when doing physical activity
  • Difficulty in breathing increased
  • Peak expiratory flow rate decreased (measurable with a peak flow meter, a device used to check how well the lungs are working)
  • Worsening allergy symptoms such as persistent runny nose
  • The need of using a quick-relief inhaler more frequently

What are the impacts/ complication if my asthma is not controlled?

  • Asthma symptoms will interrupt your job, sleep or recreational activities
  • Frequent sick leaves and will be absent from work or school
  • Frequent emergency room visits and hospitalizations for severe asthma attacks
  • Side effects from prolonged use of certain medications used to treat severe asthma eg. oral steroid
  • May lead to a life-threatening asthma attack

How can I control my asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease and it cannot be cured. However, asthma can be controlled with early diagnosis and treatment. With proper treatment, patients with asthma can have fewer symptoms and less severe attacks.

Asthma can be controlled with the following measures:

  • Avoid asthma triggering factors . For example:
    • Patient with allergy-induced asthma should try to avoid triggers such as pet dander, cockroaches or pollen
    • Patient with exercise-induced asthma should avoid cold and dry air exposure during exercise
    • Patient with occupational asthma should avoid triggers in the workplace such as chemical fumes, gases or dust
  • Follow the treatment regime recommended by the doctor or health-care provider
  • Understand the treatment regime and know what each drugs do and how to use them correctly
  • Visit the doctors or health-care provider as scheduled
  • Report any changes or worsening of asthma symptoms promptly and adjust medication accordingly based on asthma action plan or with the advice from your doctor
  • Report to your doctor if any side effects you are having with your medications

The goals of controlling asthma are :

  • To prevent on-going and bothersome day time and night time symptoms
  • To prevent frequent asthma attacks
  • To prevent acute excerbations that require visits to emergency department or hospitalization
  • Normal activities to do
  • To maintain normal or near-normal lung function

In summary

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that can cause episodic symptoms. It interferes with daily activities or even can lead to life-threatening attack Early recognition of symptoms of uncontrolled asthma is important to prevent both short-term and long-term complications. With proper asthma control, patient will be facing very few asthma symptoms, if any, and they can lead a normal, active live and sleep throughout the night without interruption from asthma.


  1. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma overview – diagnosis. Accessed April 30, 2014.
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Accessed: April 30, 2014.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consumer Information. Asthma: General Information. Accessed: April 30, 2014.
  4. Ronald B. George, Richard W. Light, Richard A. Matthay, Michael A. Matthay. Asthma. In Chest Medicine: Essentials Of Pulmonary And Critical Care Medicine May 2005, 5th edition.
  5. Ministry Of Health Malaysia. Clinical Practice Guidelines For Management Of Adult Asthma 2002.
  6. Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention: Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) (Updated 2012)
  7. British Thoracic Society. British Guideline on the Management of Asthma-a national guideline 2008.


Last Reviewed : 14 July 2015
Writer : Dr. Ho Bee Kiau
Accreditor : Dr. Azza bt. Omar

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