How to Control Asthma

Asthma can be controlled with medical care, drugs and dealing with triggers. Schedule an exam with your doctor to talk about your asthma. Your doctor is your partner in taking care of this disease.

Asthma is a respiratory condition that inflames, narrows and causes spasms in the airways. It results in problems with breathing.

Asthma is a serious health problem. It does not go away and there is no cure. This is why it is important to control it with proper treatment.

Asthma Symptoms

Symptoms of Asthma include the following:

Shortness of breath
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The feeling of not being able to breathe fully

Tightness in the chest
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Feeling like a strap is tight around the chest area

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Whistling sound when breathing out

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Lasting more than a week, consistent, mostly at night

Why be concerned about asthma?

Asthma leads to long-lasting problems without proper treatment:

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Air travels in and out of the lungs through airways. With asthma, the airways become very sensitive and swollen. This causes extra mucus. The muscles around the airways also tighten. All this makes it hard to breathe. When this happens it is called a flare up or an attack. A reliever drug helps to control an attack. If a reliever does not work fast enough it may be necessary to go to the emergency room.

Airway remodeling
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Poorly controlled and untreated asthma leads to airway remodeling. Constant extra mucus inside the airways can cause the airway tissue to thicken and scar. This process makes it harder to breathe and harder to recover from attacks. Use a controller drug to control the infection and mucus buildup and prevent airway remodeling.

Control Asthma

Asthma Drugs

Control asthma with proper drug use. There are two kinds of asthma drugs. Not everyone needs both types of drugs. Check with your doctor about drugs for your asthma. If you have drugs, it is important not to mix them up, because they do different things in the body.

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Controllers help to keep the airways from becoming sensitive and reduce the chance of an attack. They fight the infection and mucus. Use a controller regularly, even when you feel well. A controller helps to keep you feeling well.

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Even when taking a controller, there may be times when you have an attack. Once an attack begins, a reliever or rescue drug is needed. Relievers may also be used to prevent attacks. Relievers can prevent an attack caused by exercise or active play when taken as prescribed by your doctor.

Your doctor will explain about the asthma drugs. The Alliance has other sources of information for you too. 

Know Asthma Triggers

Triggers in your environment can cause asthma to worsen and even an attack. Most can be controlled. Some common triggers for asthma are:

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If you smoke, quit. If others smoke around you, for your health you may need to remove yourself from the area. You may also ask others to smoke outside and not in the car.

Cleaning products/paints:

Avoid being around strong smelling cleansers and paints.

Scented products:

Avoid using scented products such as perfume, deodorant, lotions, hairspray, and room deodorizers.

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Your doctor may prescribe your reliever for exercise-induced asthma. Other tips: warm up before exercise and breathe though your nose as much as possible.

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Colds, Flu and Sore throat: Get a flu shot, keep your body healthy with enough exercise and sleep, and wash your hands frequently.

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Stay indoors during pollen season and avoid using electric fans.


Let fresh air into your house to keep it dry. Wash mold regularly using equal parts vinegar and water with a 2 spoonfuls of baking soda; apply mixture to mold, let set for several minutes, scrub and rinse.


Keep pets out of your bedroom and wash your hands after playing with and petting your pet.


Discuss food allergies with your doctor.

Weather and Air Pollution
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When it is cold, breathe through your nose and cover it with a scarf. On bad pollution days, try to stay indoors and close the windows. Avoid outside exercise.

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Anger, Fear, Laughter, and Stress: Keep calm by breathing slowly (belly breathing) and relax your shoulders and neck muscles.


The Alliance has resources for the control of asthma:

  • In-home visits
  • Personal education
  • DVDs on how to take care of asthma
  • Books, pamphlet, flyers
    • Adult Asthma
    • Asthma Attacks
    • Asthma Team
    • Asthma Triggers
    • How to use a Diskus
    • Inhaled Steroids
    • Smoking and Asthma
    • Spacers and MDIs
    • Your Child and Asthma

English Adult Asthma Handouts
Spanish Adult Asthma Handouts
Chinese Adult Asthma Handouts
Vietnamese Adult Asthma Handouts

English Child Asthma Handouts
Spanish Child Asthma Handouts
Chinese Child Asthma Handouts
Vietnamese Child Asthma Handouts

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Other Links

National Health Information Center (Health Finder) and click on “A” and select “Asthma.”

Contact Us
(510) 747-4567 or 1-877-932-2738
CRS 711 / TTY 1-800-735-2929
Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.