Tips for Controlling Asthma and COPD

Oct 25, 2013
Asthma and COPD have similar symptoms. A specialist pharmacist can counsel patients with these conditions and offer tips for healthier outcomes.
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory Conditions

More than one-half million patients undergo hospitalizations each year from poorly controlled asthma. Better understanding of the symptoms and treatment can help improve patient outcomes.

The Prevalence of Pulmonary Diseases 

Twenty-two million Americans, many of whom are children, suffer from frightening acute attacks and long-term disabilities of chronic asthma. Millions more adults face the burden of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – or COPD – which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Regular use of the right medications could help reduce the rate of hospitalizations by 43% for chronic asthma and 56% for COPD.

The Difference Between Asthma and COPD

Asthma typically develops during childhood. Symptoms like coughing and wheezing occur from inflammation and swelling of the airways making it difficult to breath. Asthma medications play an important role in keeping symptoms under control. Both controller medications – used on a daily basis – and rescue medications for quick relief are necessary to effectively treat asthma.

COPD is a disease that traditionally impacts adults, often the result of smoking. Tobacco smoke irritates the airways and eventually leads to chronic coughing and shortness of breath.

While COPD gets progressively worse – especially with continued smoking – asthma rarely results in ongoing decline in lung function if treated properly.

Click Here to listen to a discussion about the differences between chronic asthma and COPD on The Jane Wilkens Michael Show on CBS Sky Radio.

Value of a Specialist Pharmacist

As a specialist pharmacist who focuses his time entirely on pulmonary conditions, I often counsel patients who are confused between chronic asthma and COPD. I also have discussions with patients about what situations lead to negative pulmonary illnesses. A person’s work environment (occupational asthma), allergens in their environment, exercise or infections could all prompt coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

For both chronic asthma and COPD, effective disease management is essential.

Tips for Optimal Treatment

Do It Right: Proper inhaler technique is important to get the most out of the treatment. Make sure your doctor or pharmacist explains how to use it correctly. It’s also a good idea to rinse your mouth out after using inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) to avoid an oral infection.

Use the Right Amount, Every Time: Like any medication, always use as directed. Adherence to ICS and long-acting bronchodilators is important for controlling asthma and slowing down the progression of COPD. Make sure not to overuse quick-relief medications, known as short-acting beta agonists (SABA), which can lead to an increased heart rate and nervousness.

Monitor Your Symptoms: Recognize the intensity and frequency of your asthma symptoms. Asking a few simple questions may help determine how well you are managing your condition. Here are questions from the asthma treatment guidelines that may help:  Does my asthma wake me up at night? Have I started reaching for my rescue inhaler more than three times per week? Does my asthma limit me in my normal daily activities and routines?

Have a Plan: Develop a written asthma action plan with your physician. Outlining your treatment goals will help prevent disease progression in COPD, improve your tolerance for exercise, and minimize complications, exacerbations and adverse effects of treatment.

Author Bio

Don Smart, RPh
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