Asthma is common throughout New Zealand and can affect anyone at any age.
Asthma is a condition that affects the airways in the lungs. The airways become narrower than normal. This makes it harder for you to get air in and out of the lungs, and causes wheezing (noisy breathing).
Asthma is common throughout New Zealand and can affect anyone at any age. People can grow out of asthma, but it can also reoccur. Remember that people in New Zealand continue to die from asthma every year.
Learning what to do, when to do it and who to call if your asthma gets worse will give you the confidence to help you and your family manage asthma better.
The key to controlling your asthma is knowing what to do, when to do it and who to call. There are six main steps:
- Get to know your symptoms.
- Avoid your asthma triggers i.e. things that cause your asthma to flare up.
- Use a peak flow meter.
- Learn how asthma medicines work.
- Take a preventer every day.
- Use a self-management plan.
- Coughing (indicates the airways are irritable).
- Tight feeling in chest
- Tiredness and crankiness are both caused by the asthma waking you up
- Breathlessness or wheezing (playing sport, exercising, hurrying or just doing everyday things)
You don't have to have all these symptoms – you may just have one. If you have anyone of these, your asthma may not be as good as it could be.
A trigger is something that makes your asthma worse. Try to find out what your triggers are and try to avoid them, or take extra treatment before you come into contact with them.
Several things can trigger asthma:
- Allergies – pollen, animals, mould and fungal spores.
- Exercise – but physical activity also helps people with asthma, so don't avoid exercise.
- Weather – including changes of season and changes of temperature.
- Infections – such as cold and flu viruses, and throat and nose infections.
- Dust mites – found anywhere but especially in soft furniture, carpets, mattresses and bedding.
- Stress (Glossary description: Stress is a biological term which refers to the consequences of the failure of a human or animal to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats to the organism, whether actual or imagined.) (external link) Stress and worry.
- Women's health – related to menstrual periods and pregnancy.
- Work conditions – such as fumes, chemicals and sprays.
Peak flow meter
You can get a peak flow meter free from your health providers. If you are well, the airways are open and your peak flow will be close to your best. If the airways are tight (when asthma is playing up), your peak flow will fall.
Last updated: 2 November 2015