When your asthma is well-controlled, you experience very few symptoms throughout the day and night and you can perform daily activities without shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing or wheezing. It is recommended that people with asthma monitor their symptoms daily. The information below can help you determine your level of asthma control.
Assessing Asthma Control
Tracking asthma symptoms is a key component to keeping asthma in good control. Knowing how much of what medicine to take, and when, is based on your symptoms and can be found in your Asthma Action Plan.
There are four key symptoms that you should monitor to help you keep your asthma under control:
How often do you have asthma symptoms during the day, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath?
Do you wake up at night with asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath?
How often do you use your quick-relief or rescue inhaler (i.e., albuterol medicine) to relieve asthma symptoms?
Do you have difficulty performing normal activities, such as walking, climbing stairs, daily chores or playing with the kids?
There are two easy ways to check your asthma control:
- Do you have asthma symptoms or use your quick-relief inhaler more than two times per week?
- Do you awaken at night with symptoms more than two times per month?
- Do you refill your quick-relief inhaler more than two times per year?
If you answer "yes" to one or more questions, your asthma may not be well controlled. Plan a visit with your healthcare provider and share your results.
To help monitor your symptoms, keep a journal or diary. A symptoms journal or diary can be an important communication tool to share with your healthcare provider. It also can help you determine whether your asthma is getting worse. To help make tracking easier, incorporate it into your daily living such as keeping a note on your smartphone, use an electronic blog, download one of the many apps available, use your health tracking app built into your phone or device. Whatever works best for your needs.
Using a Peak Flow Meter
Some healthcare providers like to recommend a peak flow meter to anyone with a new diagnosis of asthma. It can be especially helpful in children. A peak flow meter may help them recognize the signs and symptoms of their asthma getting worse.
A peak flow meter is a portable, inexpensive, hand-held device used to measure how air flows from your lungs in one "fast blast." In other words, the meter measures your ability to push air out of your lungs.
Patients age 5 years and older are usually able to use a peak flow meter to help manage their asthma. Not all healthcare providers recommend peak flow meters to help children and adults manage their asthma. Many healthcare providers believe a peak flow meter may be of most help for people with moderate and severe asthma. If your asthma is mild or you do not use daily medication, a peak flow meter may not be useful for your asthma management. A peak flow meter is a helpful tool for school health staff to monitor a child's asthma during the school day.
Peak flow meter measurements can help your healthcare provider make decisions about your treatment and adjust your medicines, and the measurements also can alert you when your asthma symptoms are worsening.
Asthma sometimes changes gradually. Your peak flow may show changes before you feel them. Peak flow readings can show you when to start following the steps on your Asthma Action Plan that you developed with your healthcare provider. It can help you determine the severity of the episode; decide when to use your rescue medicine, and decide when to seek emergency care.
A peak flow meter may help you and your healthcare provider identify causes of your asthma at work, home or play, and it can help parents to determine what might be triggering their child's asthma.
Page last updated: September 1, 2022