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Persistent asthma can interfere with everyday activities and even become life-threating in some situations. The good news is there are ways to manage asthma symptoms and reduce asthma flare-ups.

If you have ever had an asthma attack, you know frightening it can be. Symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. Although some people have infrequent asthma attacks, others may have asthma flare-ups on a regular basis or persistently.  

There are different types of asthma and each can cause persist symptoms. For instance, exercise induced asthma may occur during physical activity. In people with exercise induced asthma, physical activity causes the airways to narrow or constrict. Occupational asthma also affect some people. If you have occupational asthma, you may be developing symptoms in a response to a lung irritant, which you come in contact with through your work.

Understanding asthma and what type you have may help you work with your doctor to decrease the frequency of flare-ups. But in some cases, even with education and an understanding of your condition, symptoms may persist.

What is Persistent Asthma?

Asthma is considered persistent if symptoms occur several times a week without treatment. The American Academy of Pediatrics divides persistent asthma into three different categories. Mild persistent asthma is defined as symptoms occurring about twice a week, but not every day. Lung function is near normal or at 80 percent of normal.

Asthma is considered to be moderately persistent if symptoms occur almost daily and last several days even with treatment. Lung function is usually between 60 to 80 percent of normal. In people who have severe persistent asthma, symptoms usually occur every day and interfere with activities. Lung function may be less than 60 percent of normal.

Reduce Asthma Triggers

One reason asthma continues to be persistent in some people is they have yet to determine what triggers their symptoms.

One of the most important steps a person with asthma can take is to prevent symptoms before they start.  

Asthma symptoms often develop as a response to an allergen or substance, which triggers an allergic reaction. Normally, substances, such as dust or ragweed, are harmless. But in people who are allergic, their immune system responds to the substance as if it was harmful. An allergic reaction occurs, which may trigger typical asthma symptoms, such as chest tightness and wheezing.

Exercising and cold weather can also trigger asthma symptom flare-ups in some people. When you breathe in, the air is warmed and humidified in your nose. When you exercise your respiratory rate increases, which commonly leads to breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. Air bypasses the nose and is inhaled into the lungs through the mouth, which means it does not get humidified or warmed. As a result, dry air is inhaled into the lungs, which irritates the airways in some people. If you are exercising in cold weather, you may be at an even higher risk of irritating the lungs.

In order to determine what is triggering your asthma symptoms, it can be helpful to keep a log of when symptoms occur and what you are doing. Overtime, a pattern may emerge, and you may be able to determine your asthma triggers.

Reducing asthma triggers may be as simple as avoiding the allergen or it may involve making a few changes to your lifestyle.

Staying On Top Of Persistent Asthma

Monitoring Symptoms

For people who have been diagnosed with persistent asthma, it is essential to monitor symptoms and start treatment early. If symptoms are allowed to continue, they can be difficult to reverse, and a life-threatening asthma attack can develop.

One excellent tool to monitor asthma symptoms is called a peak flow meter.

The small, handheld device is used to measure how much air you can blow out. This measurement is known as your peak flow rate.

Asthma symptoms can sometimes increase gradually. Measuring how much air you can blow out of your lungs is one way to determine if your asthma is getting worse before symptoms become noticeable.

The first step in using a peak flow meter is determining your baseline. Your baseline is how much air you can normally blow out. You can obtain your baseline, by measuring your peak flow rate every day for a week when you are not having symptoms.

Take a deep breath in and put the mouthpiece of the peak flow meter into your mouth and forcefully blow out. The tube-like device has a number scale on the front of it. After you blow into the device, the maker will move on the numbered scale to indicate the amount of air you blew out. Take note of where the maker is and repeat a second time. Take the better of the two measurements.

Write down your peak flow measurement each day. After about a week, you should be able to determine what your personal best is. Consider using the device each day to determine if you are forcing out less air than your normal levels. For example, if you blow out only about 50 percent of what is normal for you, it is probably time to use your fast-acting inhaler. Be sure to speak to your doctor about your peak flow rates including how to interpret your results and when to take medications.  

Understand Asthma Medications 

Persistent asthma causes both inflammation and narrowing of the airways.

The combination of both factors makes getting air in and out of the lungs difficult. In addition, excess mucus may be produced, which makes symptoms worse. Both inflammation and narrowing or constriction of the airways needs to be treated to reduce symptoms.

There are different classes of medication, which may be prescribed to treat persistent asthma. For instance, bronchodilators will be prescribed to treat sudden symptoms, such as wheezing or chest tightness. The medication may be taken through a nebulizer or a metered dose inhaler. Regardless of the method of administration, bronchodilators work by relaxing the muscles of the airways. As the muscles relax, they open up or dilate the airways, which makes breathing easier. This class of medication is considered fast-acting and can be taken as soon as symptoms start.

Corticosteroids can also be used to treat persistent asthma. This type of medication should not be confused with steroids, which some bodybuilders take to increase muscle size. The chemical structure and dose is not the same. Corticosteroids treat persistent asthma by decreasing inflammation in the lungs. The medication is not taken as a fast-acting treatment for sudden symptoms. Instead, it is used as a preventative treatment. Corticosteroids may be prescribed for people with persistent asthma to be used every day to prevent inflammation from developing.   

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