What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the lung causing the airways of the lung to swell and narrow resulting in difficulty of breathing. It is a disease characterised by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person.
Shortness of breath
Fortunately, asthma can be effectively treated and managed with good medication adherence and inhaler technique. Asthma is a common and manageable condition and many people can live successful and active lives when their asthma is controlled.
The most important thing you can do for controlling your asthma is adherence to your prescribed inhaler regimen using good inhaler technique.
If your asthma symptoms are flaring up, poor inhaler technique may be the root of the problem. In 2019, an estimated 470,000 people in Ireland had asthma and 60% didn’t have their asthma under control. Asthma is an extremely manageable condition and flare-ups can be easily avoided with good medication compliance.
Asthma treatment should be customised to the individual. However, most asthmatics will be prescribed two types of treatment - a controller inhaler and a reliever inhaler
“The controller” - anti-inflammatory agents
Decreases inflammation within the airways
Should be taken regularly as prescribed by your physician. It is important that the controller inhaler is taken regularly as it provides a long-term treatment. The controller inhaler will reduce the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms and reduces the risk of flare-ups or asthma attacks
Inhaler is usually brown or red
“The reliever” - bronchodilators
Relax airway smooth muscle and expand the airways
To be used during episodes of shortness of breath and wheezing
This is a short-term treatment and should be used when needed
Inhaler is usually blue or green
You will be prescribed your asthma treatment according to your individual condition. If you are unsure of how to take your inhaler talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how to take them.
Inhaler technique videos:
Metered dose inhaler video: https://www.asthma.ie/content/metered-dose-inhaler
DPI diskus video: https://www.asthma.ie/content/diskus
Easibreathe “breath-actuated” video: https://www.asthma.ie/content/easibreathe
Turbohaler video: https://www.asthma.ie/content/turbohaler
Ellipta video: https://www.asthma.ie/content/ellipta
How to monitor you asthma:
A peak flow meter can help you monitor your asthma. (Attach a photo of a peak flow meter as seen above)
Video of Peak flow meter use: https://www.asthma.ie/content/peak-flow-meter
How to use a Peak Flow Meter
1. Move the cursor to base/zero and ensure fingers are not blocking the cursor.
2. Take a steady, deep breath in and hold breath while putting mouthpiece in mouth between the teeth and close lips around the mouthpiece.
3. Blow a hard fast breath out through the mouthpiece (not nose)
4. Record where the cursor stops
5. Repeat steps 1-4 twice and record the highest of the three results.
What The Asthma Society of Ireland recommends to do during an asthma attack:
Sit up and stay calm. Do not lie down
Take slow and steady breaths
Take 1 puff of reliever inhaler (usually a blue colour) every minute.
Use a spacer if available.
· People over 6: up to 10 puffs in 10 minutes.
· People under 6: up to 6 puffs in 10 minutes.
4. Call 112 or 999 if your symptoms don’t improve after 10 minutes
Did you know that? Pharmacists in Ireland are trained to administer emergency reliever medication to asthma patients during an asthma attack. If you are nearby a pharmacy and are suffering an asthma attack do not hesitate to seek medical assistance from the pharmacist.
Non-drug strategies to reduce risk of asthma:
Smoking cessation: Smoking is especially dangerous in people with asthma as it can trigger an asthma attack. Tobacco smoke can irritate the airways in the lung causing them to constrict and narrow. When you quit smoking, you may notice that you don’t need your inhalers as much as your asthma isn’t flaring up as often. If your child has asthma do not smoke around them.
Know and avoid your triggers:
Some people may find that their symptoms can be triggered by factors such as:
Allergens such as pollen or dust
Symptoms may often occur with or worsen with viral infections.
Avoid NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen which may trigger an attack unless specified by your physician.
Review by your GP:
Starting treatment: you should be reviewed 1-3 months after beginning treatment
Stabilised on medication: Every 3-12 months
In pregnancy: asthma patients should be reviewed every 4-6 weeks.
After an asthma attack or exacerbation: as soon as possible, at most 1 week after.
If you find you are wheezing, more breathless and need to use your reliever inhaler more often than normal you should visit your GP to discuss your medication.
Vaccination in people with asthma:
People with asthma are more likely to suffer secondary complications as a result from acquiring viral and bacterial infections such as Influenza and Pneumonia. The Pneumococcal Vaccine and the annual seasonal Influenza Vaccine is strongly recommended for people with asthma. People with asthma are classified as an “at-risk” category and can receive the Influenza Vaccine for a lower cost as it will be covered by the HSE.
Many pharmacies offer both of these vaccines and both of them can be availed of in our pharmacy.
Covid 19 and Asthma
see Asthma society for more information