What should you know about asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease in which a person’s muscles tighten, causing airways to narrow or become inflamed. This restricts the potential level of oxygen that can reach the lungs and therefore causes difficulty in breathing. Wheezing, tightening of the chest, coughing and shortness of breath are all symptoms that can arise when an attack occurs.
Although asthma is a chronic disease that cannot be cured, certain factors can encourage the onset of or worsen an attack. It is important to ease these factors in order to prevent frequent attacks that can result in a visit to A&E or become fatal. Asthma can flare up at any time and, even when you feel fine, it is important to remember that it is still present. It is therefore important that those who do suffer from the disease are able to recognise and control their symptoms as early as possible.
What can you do to improve your care?
Smoking is a major factor in increasing the severity of an asthma attack, by irritating the airways further. This can, in some cases, lead to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Smoking in your younger years can influence the continuation of asthma symptoms throughout adulthood. In order to reduce your symptoms, smoking is therefore not encouraged. If smoking is already a factor in your life, quitting is advised.
Often the onset of an asthma attack is associated with exercise. Although exercise can cause an attack, an active lifestyle is not discouraged. It is, however, important to control the exercise process. Benefits of exercising include increasing your lung capacity, which can help you to manage your asthma better when active, increasing your stamina to help you to cope with day-to-day activities better and giving you the confidence to improve the management of your condition. If your asthma is severely affecting your ability to exercise, it is important to visit your local GP in order to retain the correct medication and discuss ways for you to stay active. An exercise programme would also be beneficial in helping you to undertake the correct level of exercise. It is important for you to start slowly and gradually increase your levels of exercise in order for your lungs to cope with the change oxygen intake. It is important to note that not all sports are tolerated equally well. Swimming is one of the best-tolerated sports.
If you are suffering from asthma and would like to learn how to be physically active without causing further harm, your GP can refer you to the Bracknell Forest Activate Health Scheme. The 12 week scheme introduces you to physical activity and shows you the benefits of regular exercise. For further information please visit Activate Health Scheme and fill in an enquiry form.
A form of moderate exercise that is not too physically demanding is walking. The Bracknell Forest Ramblers’ route offers a 26 mile walking trail around the countryside.
Similarly, the East Berkshire Rambler’s group offers the opportunity to join a group of people who take part in walks throughout the East Berkshire area on Wednesdays and Sundays. For further information please visit the East Berkshire Ramblers’ website.
Creating ‘asthma friendly’ environments
If you are able to familiarise yourself with certain environmental factors that trigger your asthma or make it worse, then it is encouraged that you are as free from these as possible. The following allergens could trigger your asthma.
- Animal fur- keep pets with fur out of your main living area (eg. bedroom or living room), maintain a clean house in order to reduce the amount of allergens and maintain a regular grooming or bathing pattern.
- Dust mites- keep carpets, bedding, furnishings and toys as clean as possible in order to reduce dust mites. De-humidifers dry out the air, making it difficult for dust mites to survive. They also keep the air fresh and reduce other allergens circulating your home and can help to decrease mould spores, which can affect airways.
- Exposure to pollens or air pollution might make your asthma worse. If so, try to limit time outdoors when the levels of these substances in the outdoor air are high.
Stress is a trigger of asthma attacks. It is, therefore, important that you reduce your stress levels as much as possible. Ways in which you can do this include undertaking regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, reducing your alcohol intake, avoiding smoking), ensuring organisation in your day and maintaining a good balance between work and leisure.
Reducing risk of colds and flu
It is important to maintain a high level of hygiene (eg. regularly washing hands and avoiding touching your face with your hands). Avoid close contact with people who have a cold or flu and avoid crowds during the flu season. It is also recommended that you get a flu vaccination yearly as a form of prevention. These are available at your local GP or in particular pharmacies in Bracknell.
Having an asthma check up
It is strongly advised that if you have asthma then you go and have your free asthma check up. It is important to have a test once a year. This test includes an inhaler technique check and an asthma control test with the option to sign up to a medicine use review to help ensure that medicine is taken correctly. The test is free and is available at all Lloyds pharmacies. A list of your local Lloyds pharmacies can be found in the contact details section below.
Contact details for local services
Bracknell Forest Stop Smoking Support
Tel: 01344 352518
Activate Health Scheme
The Activate Office
East Berkshire Ramblers’ Group
Membership and Recruitment Contact: Neil Adamson
Tel: 01753 776627
Bracknell Leisure Centre
Tel: 01344 454203
Tel: 0844 897 8000
8 Rectory Row
Tel: 01344 421755
Lloyds Pharmacy (Great Hollands)
6 Great Holland Square
Tel: 01344 420293
Tel: 01344 423828
Lloyds Pharmacy (Binfield)
Terrace Road North
Tel: 01344 868486
Lloyds Pharmacy (Crowthorne)
12 Dukes Ride
Tel: 01344 772432