Sometimes asthma can be hard to manage and it’s well known that, if not properly controlled, asthma can be dangerous. Even life-threatening, in some cases.
If you’re experiencing more asthma symptoms than usual, it’s a sign that your airways are inflamed and narrowing. This makes it harder for air to get into your lungs and means an asthma attack or an exacerbation is more likely to occur.
It’s therefore crucial that you are aware when your condition isn’t properly managed so that you can take the appropriate action in time.
If you are not yet doing it, consider using a written Asthma Action Plan to help you properly keep track of your condition: keeping your Asthma Action Plan well-updated can help you stay on top of your asthma.
Remember: the sooner you treat the inflammation of your airways, the more likely you can lower the risk of an asthma attack.
Here are 7 signs that your asthma is probably getting worse.
- You feel breathless more often
Even if you are used to feeling shortness of breath after physical activity, you should not feel that way when you are not doing anything arduous. Activities that are not meant to be hard should not cause you shortness of breath.
- You are coughing and wheezing often during the day… and you are not sleeping at night as well
A second hint that an asthma attack or an exacerbation may occur sooner rather than later is when you cough and wheeze more often than you normally do. If this happens and you constantly feel like you are about to cough or if you often wheeze with a whistle-like sound, consider talking to your doctor to adjust your therapeutic plan. When asthma is properly managed, it should not wake you up more than 1-2 times a month. So if you wake up multiple times at night coughing or wheezing, you aren’t just losing sleep; you are probably witnessing your asthma getting out of control.
- Your chest feels tighter
Although a slight tightness in the chest is a very common symptom of asthma, if you are constantly experiencing a major feeling of chest tightness, especially while doing nothing strenuous, it may be time to talk to your doctor. It is likely that you are probably getting exposed to one or more triggers, which are overstimulating your airways and, ultimately, causing the muscles surrounding your airways to contract, making you feel like something heavy is placed on the top of your chest. Keep track of the environment where you’re experiencing these symptoms and try to figure out what the triggers could be.
- Your peak flow drops
If you already use a peak flow meter, you know that it’s a simple device that allows you to monitor your lungs’ functionality at its best. If you notice a drop in your peak flow meter reading below 80% of your personal best, then your airways are probably getting narrow and a treatment adjustment is something you should definitely talk about with your doctor.
- You sometimes find it hard to speak a whole sentence
Having trouble finishing a long sentence without taking a break? This can be because your airway is unable to get the required amount of air into your lung that allows you to exhale in the slow rate we use when we talk. Consider discussing this with your doctor.
- You have been using your reliever inhaler more than usual
Did you know that using your reliever inhaler 3 times a week or more means that your asthma is not well-controlled? Conversely, if you find that you need to use your reliever inhaler so often, or if you feel that it doesn’t help you so much, you are probably experiencing a worsening of your asthma. We know that it can be hard to keep track of exactly how many times you use your inhaler during a given week. , But if you suspect your usage is increasing, keeping track in a journal or on your phone may be really helpful. Maintaining a log of your inhaler usage can also help you to identify triggers. For instance, if you mainly use your inhaler after being outdoors, an environmental trigger may be causing your asthma to flare up.
- You are experiencing issues in your daily routine
When everyday activities, like going to work, housekeeping, exercising, or even just walking become hard due to asthma symptoms, it could be that something in your asthma management that is not working properly. If you notice that you can’t keep up with daily and common activities, because of shortness of breath, coughing, or chest tightness, then you should consider talking to your doctor in order to achieve better control.
Finally, if your asthma continues to deteriorate despite following your written asthma action plan, or if your asthma gets suddenly worse (e.g. if you experience extreme difficulty breathing, wheezing, strong chest tightness, cough, and shortness of breath, among other symptoms) you are probably having an asthma attack or exacerbation: you should see your doctor or go to an emergency department immediately.