Asthma & COPD

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that makes breathing difficult.  Airways tighten, swell and fill with mucus in responce to certain substances or circumstances that “trigger” the asthma symptoms.

Common triggers of asthma symptoms and how to avoid them:


  • If you have asthma, do not smoke
  • Avoid household sprays, chemicals and polishes

Cold or viral infections

  • Consider getting an annual flu shot
  • Speak to your doctor about an “action plan” for those times when your asthma symptoms worsen

Exercise and play

  • Stay physically fit and increase lung capacity with exercise
  • On very cold days, avoid exercising outdoors
  • Doing warm up exercises before an activity can reduce symptoms


  • Keep the bedroom a “pet-free” zone
  • If possible, remove fur-berring pets from the home
  • Wash pets regularly


  • Keep windows and doors closed
  • Stay indoors if the pollen count is high
  • Do not hang laundry outside to dry
  • Use an air conditioner with a filter


  • Keep damp areas clean to prevent mould growth
  • Keep humidity in the house below 50%
  • Use fungicide (e.g. equal parts household bleach and water) on sinks, shower stalls, and garbage pails to kill indoor moulds

Dust and dust mites

  • Wash bedding in hot water weekly
  • Wrap mattresses and pillows in allergy-proof covers
  • Remove carpets from bedrooms
  • Use window shades instead of blinds throughout the house
  • Make sure your dryer is vented to the outside
  • Limit the amount of upholstered furniture in the house
  • Avoid stuffed animals

Breathe a Little Easier…

People with asthma can breathe a little easier knowing that there are actions they can take to manage their health with a goal to leading a normal lifestyle.

You can ask yourself the following questions to determine if your asthma is adequately controlled:

  1. Do you cough, sheeze or have a tight chest because of your asthma?
  2. Does coughing, wheesing or chest tightness wake you up at night?
  3. Do you stop exercising because of your asthma symptoms?
  4. Do you ever miss work or school because of your asthma?
  5. Do you use your blue or “rescue” inhaler more than three times a week?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, your asthma may be considered poorly controlled.  Be sure to discuss your results with your doctor ans seek medical attention if your asthma symptoms worsen or do nto respond to treatment.

Medications for Treatment of Asthma

The most common treatments for asthma are generally called “quick relievers” (short-acting medications) or “controller” medications (not for immediate relief).

Quick relivers – short-acting bronchodilators:

  • Relieve symptoms in minutes by relaxing the airway muscles
  • Used as a “rescue” medication during asthma attacks.  The doctor may also recommend you use this medication before exercise or exposure to cold temperatures
  • Quick relivers include salbutamol, terbutaline and fenoterol.

Controllers – not for immediate relief:

  • Prevent and reduce inflammation, swelling and build-up of mucus
  • Must be used on a regular basis to be effective
  • Controller medications include fluticasone, budesonide, and beclomethasone

Self-Care of Asthma:

If you have difficulty getting the medication from an aerosol inhaler, ask your pharmacist about spacer devices or other inhaler options that may be more suitable to your needs.  Spacer devices are available in formats suitable for all ages.

A peak flow meter can help you to better manage moderate to severe asthma.  This easy-to-use device measures how well air moves out of your lungs and warn you if your asthma symptoms are beginning to worsen.

Make sure that you and your doctor have discussed your asthma care plan and what to do if your asthma worsens.  You should know when to seek medical attention and how to manage your medications under various circumstances.  Your care plan should be written down and kept in a safe and accessible place.