Because there is no cure for asthma, the goal of asthma therapy is to successfully manage the disease. Good control of asthma includes:
• Normal activity, including the ability to play and participate in sports or other activities
• No coughing or difficulty breathing
• No sleep disruption
• No absences from school or work due to asthma
• No ER visits/hospitalizations
• Rare need for rescue medications
• Normal lung function
With proper management and care, a person with asthma can live a long, healthy life with few symptoms.
The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma have become the gold standard for asthma care in the United States (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/lung/index.htm). In general, two kinds of medications are used to treat asthma. Controller medicines limit the underlying airway inflammation that contributes to asthma symptoms, and are often taken daily. Inhaled corticosteroids fall into this category and are used to maintain control of persistent asthma. Quick relief, or rescue medication, treats bronchoconstriction by relaxing the smooth muscles that have tightened around the airways. These medicines include short-acting b-agonists, and should be used to treat acute symptoms and to prevent exercise-induced asthma. The use of rescue medications greater than two times per week suggests poor control of the disease.
Education of the asthma patient is essential for proper management of the disease. Patients must be familiar with their medications and the devices used to administer them, recognize the warning signs of an asthma exacerbation, be aware of triggers and how to avoid them, and have knowledge of other topics specific to their health needs that are critical to good asthma management.