Breathing easier without limiting activities is the goal of new government guidelines that urge more attention to asthma sufferers' day-to-day symptoms, not just their severe attacks.
The guidelines reflect a shift already under way, as specialists seek to teach asthma patients that a flare-up isn't the only sign of trouble. Someone who only avoids an asthma attack by giving up exercise, or who thinks it's normal to wake up at night coughing, doesn't have the chronic lung disease under good control, they say.
The guidelines are aimed at doctors, but the NIH highlighted some patient-friendly advice:
— A person's asthma can change over time, so doctors must closely monitor current impairment and adjust treatment as needed. Key to check are the frequency and intensity of symptoms, changes in lung function and limitations of daily activities.
— Doctors should provide patients a written "action plan" with instructions for daily treatment and for how to recognize when asthma is worsening and seek more help.
— Doctors also should assess patients' future risk of worsening or a flare-up. Such signs as worsening lung function on some standard breathing tests can indicate someone is a risk for attacks even if they're having few day-to-day symptoms.