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Track your asthma!

Have you ever heard your physician say “a picture is worth a thousand words”?  It’s true especially for a rash that is changing in character or severity.  But, taking a picture of asthma symptoms can be problematical.   Tracking asthma is important to help manage your asthma to achieve asthma control.

An asthma symptom diary is “worth a thousand words!”  Asthma Symptom Diaries can help you record what symptoms you are having and when they are happening.  It can aid your physician in determining a pattern with your asthma in return helping you take control of your asthma and living the quality of life that you dream of!

What to keep in an Asthma Symptom Diary:

Symptoms (date and time):  these include cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.  It’s especially important to track night time symptoms!  Asthma tends to worsen between 1 am and 3 am.

Precipitating Factors: note circumstances including the following.

  • Nasal symptoms: (may indicate a cold, allergy or sinus infection)
  • Location (home, work, school, the park, during a hobby, etc):  There may be a particular asthma trigger at a location that needs to be identified. Occupational asthma accounts for nearly 20% of new-onset adult asthma.
  • Exercise:  if symptoms are occurring with exercise, don’t give up on exercise. There are ways to manage it.
  • Medication:  some medications can trigger asthma; the most common ones are beta-blockers (used for the treatment of migraine headache and hypertension) and aspirin or other NSAIDs (ibuprofen).

Interventions (medications):  Record how many puffs of quick-relief medication you required (if any) and the diary is also a good place to record that you remembered to take your daily controller medication.  If a person needs quick-relief medication (albuterol) more than twice a week, that’s too much! Other interventions include removing one’s self from the trigger (irritant or allergic).

Response to interventions:  A good response to medication is helpful, suggesting reversal of the bronchial constriction.  A poor response may indicate too low of a dose, poor inhaler technique (medication isn’t reaching lower airway) or perhaps another diagnosis such as vocal cord dysfunction, bronchitis, pulmonary embolism, etc.

Peak Flows:  If your doctor has you monitoring your peak expiratory flow with a peak flow meter, then these values can be added to the diary.  This can give an objective measure of breathing.  Typically the peak flow is a little lower in the morning compared to the evening.

The key factor to remember after you have put time and effort into an Asthma Symptom Diary is to take it to your next appointment and go over it with your physician!

This educational information does not take the place of your physician’s advice.



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