Take Charge of Your Asthma
While there is no cure for asthma, you can act to avoid asthma attacks and manage asthma symptoms. This lets you control your asthma – so your asthma won’t control you!
Until recently the standard for asthma treatment required using two inhalers. A new recommendation for many people with asthma is to use a single maintenance and reliever therapy (SMART), which is one inhaler for both daily maintenance and quick relief. Since SMART therapy combines two medicines into one inhaler, you may use the same inhaler:
- Every day to control and prevent asthma.
- As a quick relief to treat asthma symptoms.
Ask your primary care provider (PCP) if SMART is right for you
When using the SMART inhaler to keep your asthma under control, take the maintenance dose:
- As instructed by your PCP. This can be one or two times a day.
- Even if you are feeling well or have no asthma symptoms.
When using the SMART inhaler for symptom relief, take the rescue dose:
- As instructed by your PCP. Take additional puffs for quick relief of asthma symptoms.
- Keep your SMART inhaler with you in case asthma symptoms show up unexpectedly.
Maximum doses for SMART inhalers
The maximum doses are listed below. Your PCP may instruct you to take fewer total puffs depending on your needs. Make sure to follow your PCP’s instructions. Usually:
- Adults and adolescents 12 and older should not take more than 12 puffs total per day. This includes puffs taken for daily maintenance and quick relief.
- Children 4 to 11 should not take more than 8 puffs total per day. This includes puffs taken for daily maintenance and quick relief.
Your asthma may not be as controlled as it could be if you are still:
- Having asthma symptoms a few times per week.
- Waking up at night wheezing and/or coughing at least once week.
- Using your SMART inhaler for a quick relief at least two times per week.
Based on the severity of your symptoms, you might need to contact your PCP or seek urgent or emergency attention.
When to seek emergency treatment
If your asthma is getting worse fast, even after taking your medicine for quick relief, you may need to go the emergency room.
Warning signs that you need to go to hospital with asthma include:
- Rapid breathing and extreme shortness of breath.
- Severe chest pain.
- Feeling confused.
- Getting no relief from using your inhalers.
How to prevent asthma flare-ups or attacks
Know tour triggers
Try to keep your home and workspace trigger-free. Stay away from your triggers as best you can at school or work and when you go out.
Take your asthma medicine as prescribed
Taking your asthma medicine not only controls your asthma symptoms, but also prevents you from having asthma flare-ups or attacks.
Quit tobacco and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke
Using tobacco products and being exposed to secondhand smoke can worsen your asthma symptoms. Visit our Health Tips page to learn about quitting options available to HPSM members.
Getting regular physical activity can strengthen your lungs and help manage your asthma. If exercise makes your asthma worse, talk to your PCP about using your quick relief inhaler 15 minutes before your exercise. To learn more about exercise, see our Health Tips.
Get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine
People with asthma are at higher risk of getting very sick from viruses like the flu and COVID-19. Getting vaccinated can help protect you from these viruses. Learn more about the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine.
Talk with your PCP
At your next health care visit, ask your PCP these questions:
- What are my asthma triggers?
- Am I using my asthma medicine the right way?
- How well are my asthma symptoms being controlled?
- Do I need to make any changes in my normal asthma medicines?
- What is my asthma action plan?
Asthma Action Plan
HPSM’s Asthma Action Plan will help you know how to avoid asthma attacks and what to do if your asthma is getting worse. For example:
- Doing Well You’re doing well if you’re taking your controller medicines every day, avoiding your asthma triggers and breathing easy.
- Caution Immediately take your rescue medicine if you’re coughing, wheezing, waking up from asthma, feeling chest-tightness or short of breath.
- Danger Immediately get help if you have taken your rescue medication and are still breathing hard and fast, can't walk or talk, are very short of breath or coughing non-stop.
Download HPSM’s Asthma Action Plan, then fill in your information! Also share it with your doctor at your next visit so they can change it if needed.
How to use an inhaler
Here are the steps for using your asthma inhaler with a spacer. To watch a short video showing how to use an inhaler with a spacer (in both English and Spanish), visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- Remove the cap and make sure the mouthpiece and spray hole are clean.
- Shake the inhaler 10 to 15 times.
- Put the inhaler mouthpiece into the end of the spacer.
- Take a deep breath, then let it all the way out.
- Seal your lips around the mouthpiece of the spacer so that it is between your teeth and above your tongue.
- Start breathing in slowly, then press the inhaler button while still breathing in.
- Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds, then breathe out slowly through your mouth.