"The blue one controls my asthma"...but does it really?
People often treat their asthma as a short-term condition that comes and goes when they have asthma symptoms.
But, asthma is a chronic (long-term) condition that’s always there, even when you don’t have symptoms. Managing your asthma and having good asthma control is more than relying on your blue/grey reliever medication. In fact, using your reliever medication more than 2 days per week, may actually be a sign of poor asthma control.
Poor asthma control (frequent symptoms and/or flare-ups) is a common problem in both adults and children. Research has found that for almost half of people with asthma, there is a gap between the potential control of their asthma symptoms and the level of control they currently experience. [i]
Take the Asthma Control Test today to find out your level of asthma control and visit your doctor for an asthma review.
How do relievers help asthma?
Blue/grey reliever medication is a key part of asthma management. Their ability to provide quick relief of asthma symptoms means you should always carry it with you. The medication works by quickly relaxing tightened airway muscles, opening the airways up so you can breathe more easily.
Everyone with asthma should have a reliever so they can use it whenever they have asthma symptoms, it is your vital Asthma First Aid medication. Although, if you find you need to use your reliever more than two days per week (not including before exercise) your asthma may not be well controlled.
How often are you using your reliever?
Using your reliever on more than 2 days per week (not including before exercise) means you are only addressing your immediate asthma symptoms, and not dealing with what is causing them (the underlying inflammation). This means your airways are more likely to react to triggers and increases the risk of a serious asthma flare-up.
Using 3 or more blue/grey reliever canisters in 12 months is also associated with an increased risk of flare-ups.
Frequent use of your reliever (more than 2 days per week) is as sign of poorly controlled asthma.
Why might you need a preventer?
Some people with asthma may only need a reliever, however most people should also have a preventer to manage their asthma. This is because relievers only provide short-term relief of asthma symptoms, they do nothing to treat the underlying problem of airway inflammation (redness and swelling) and excess mucus production that occurs in asthma, and this is why you need a preventer.
Preventers work to reduce the inflammation in the airways. Regular use of your preventer makes the airways less sensitive, which reduces the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms (reducing the need for your reliever medication) and the risk of future flare-ups.
If you are using your blue/grey reliever more than 2 days per week it may mean your asthma is not as well managed as it could be. See your doctor to discuss whether you would benefit from preventer treatment.
For adolescents and adults with asthma, a preventer is indicated if:
- Experiencing asthma symptoms twice or more during the past month, or
- Waking due to asthma symptoms once or more during the past month
If you have been prescribed a preventer, it should be taken every day, even if you feel well.
What is poor asthma control?
Are you at risk of an asthma flare up? Answer these quick questions to find out:
- Are your symptoms making you use your blue reliever puffer more than two days per week?
- Have you had difficulty sleeping because of your asthma symptoms (including cough)?
- Have you had your usual asthma symptoms during the day (cough, wheeze, chest lightness or breathlessness)?
- Has your asthma interfered with your usual activities (e.g. housework, work/ school, etc.)?
If so, these are all signs that your asthma may not be under control.
What is good asthma control?
Most people with asthma can achieve good asthma control. This means that you:
- Have asthma symptoms on no more than two days a week
- Need your blue/grey reliever no more than two days a week, or even not at all
- Experience no limitations on your activities due to asthma and
- Don’t get any asthma symptoms at night or when you wake up
Having good asthma control is more than relying on reliever medication.
Take the Asthma Control Test today to find out your level of asthma control.
What can you do to achieve good asthma control?
Even if you think you are in control of your asthma, ask yourself, “Am I needing my reliever on more than 2 days a week? If the answer is yes, your asthma might be controlling you.
Take the Asthma Control Test today to determine your level of asthma control and see your GP for an asthma review.
[i] Reddel HK, Sawyer SM, Everett PW, Peters MJ. Asthma control in Australia: a cross-sectional web-based survey in a nationally representative population. Med J Aust 2015; 202: 492–7.