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Managing your asthma symptoms

A man coughs into his hand, looking concerned.
You shouldn't put up with asthma symptoms like waking up with a cough or wheezing when you have a cold.

Over 2.5million Australians live with asthma, making it the most common chronic disease affecting our population. Some people’s asthma can be mild and affect them only occasionally, while others might experience severe symptoms every day. What all people with asthma have in common is that asthma can be a life-threatening illness.

In November 2016, over 8,000 Victorians sought hospital treatment after a thunderstorm struck, the sudden change in weather causing them to experience symptoms of asthma. For a week, asthma hit the headlines around the country, but for 1 in 9 Australians asthma is an everyday occurrence.

Why is asthma management important?

University of Sydney’s ‘The Australian Asthma Survey’ shows that 1 in 4 Australians with asthma live with preventable asthma symptoms. With proper management, people with asthma shouldn’t have to deal with waking up at night with a cough or wheeze, and shouldn’t expect their asthma symptoms to worsen when they catch a cold or are exercising.

However many people with asthma accept these symptoms as part and parcel of living with asthma. This not only impacts on their quality of life, but can put them at risk of severe and life-threatening attacks.

A little boy stands in a park, using his asthma reliever puffer medication.

Managing your asthma

So what can people with asthma do to improve their condition? All people with asthma should talk with their doctor about creating an Asthma Action Plan to help manage the condition.

Your Asthma Action Plan will include the things you can do and avoid to help prevent asthma symptoms. These might include:

  • avoiding environmental triggers like dust, pollen or smoke
  • taking preventer medication regularly each day
  • avoiding stress
  • and taking steps to avoid catching colds or the flu.

If your symptoms or experience of asthma changes, you should see your doctor again to revisit your Asthma Action Plan. Don’t let symptoms pass or wait for your asthma to get worse before getting help. Monitoring your use of reliever medication can help you know if you have your asthma under control: reliever medication shouldn’t need to be used more than two days per week (other than before exercise).

Asthma can be a life-threatening illness, and even mild asthma can rapidly become severe in the right circumstances, as seen during Victoria’s thunderstorms. You can read more about managing asthma on the National Asthma Council Australia website, and find more information about what asthma is on the Queensland Health Blog.

Last updated: 9 April 2019