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Asthma action plans and what to do in an asthma attack: Dr Peter Bremner

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I’m Peter Bremner. I’m a respiratory physician and I’ve been part of the Advisory Board for about 10 years.

What is an asthma action plan?

An asthma action plan is a written plan that we give to patients that gives them instructions about how to manage their asthma. Typically it involves telling them when to use their puffers and how to use them. In the setting of an asthma attack people often don’t think particularly clearly, so it gives you guidelines on what to do and when to do it.

And we know that a written asthma action plan is probably the most important factor contributing in a reduction in attacks of asthma or flare-ups of asthma, and reducing admissions to hospitals. So they’re critical in terms of the long-term management of asthma just because it provides guidance to patients as to what to do and it helps improve control of asthma, it helps reduce symptoms of asthma.

How often should my asthma action plan be reviewed?

Your asthma management plan should be reviewed regularly when you see your doctor or specialist. And whenever there’s a change to your treatment your management plan needs to be adjusted to reflect that change. So it maybe as often as 3 months that you need to make a minor adjustment to that plan to reflect a reduction or an increase, usually in your preventer medication.

What should I do in an asthma attack?

Asthma attacks can be very frightening. We know that the outcome from asthma attacks, on rare occasions, can be awful. It’s very important that you understand that an asthma attack is completely treatable. You must not panic and you should always call for help. In the very short term it’s the use of your reliever puffer that is going to be of greatest benefit and you should use that as often and frequently as you need to. So that’s your Ventolin puffer, your Bricanyl puffer or your Airomir puffer or your nebulizer.

In the setting of an asthma attack you can’t really overdose on those and you should take as many as you feel you need.

If you think you’re not getting benefit from your puffers, if you’re having trouble talking or trouble walking then you should seek help urgently.

How often should asthma patients see their GP for a review?

Most asthmatic patients should be seeing their GPs on a regular basis.

How do you define regular? It depends on control. If control is good, once or twice a year. If control is not good, once or twice a month to try to achieve that control so that you reduce the risk of having an attack of asthma.

You also need to see your GP to get your medication. You can’t buy your preventer medication over the counter and that’s the key to maintaining good control. And your doctor can’t generally provide you with a prescription that lasts more than 6 months so you need to be seeing your GP at least twice a year.

Dr Bremner’s advice and top tips for managing asthma

It’s important to understand that patients with asthma can live a completely normal life and not have their asthma interfere with it in any way.

To achieve that:

  • It’s important that you understand the differences between puffers and use your preventer puffer on a regular basis.
  • It’s very important that your technique with that preventer puffer, with any puffer, is good and that you’re using the drug correctly as well as using it regularly.
  • It’s important to understand also that it’s not acceptable to have persistent asthma symptoms that interfere with your life in any way, and that generally means that control is sub-optimal and you need some adjustment to your treatment.
  • We know that the possession of an asthma action plan is very important and probably the most important part of your asthma management and you should go to your doctor and say I would like an asthma management plan because I understand that it’s going to help me with control and to reduce the risk of me having a flare-up of asthma.

More information

woman_asthma_inhaler_respiratory_lungs_breathing_100x100For everything you need to know about Asthma, including the symptoms, risk factors, treatments and other useful resources, visit Asthma

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Posted On: 28 February, 2016
Modified On: 14 August, 2018


Created by: myVMC