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Asthma Discharge Information

What is asthma?

Asthma is a long-lasting (chronic) lung disease. It causes symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Asthma may be mild, moderate, or severe. An asthma attack may last a few minutes or a few days. Attacks can happen anywhere and at any time. Severe asthma attacks can be life threatening. It is very important to get prompt treatment for asthma attacks and to learn to manage your asthma so you can live a healthy, active life.

It is more common in children than adults. People who had asthma as children often have no symptoms once they become adults. However, the symptoms may come back later in life. Asthma that develops for the first time in mid- or late life usually keeps being a problem for the rest of your life.

You may find that there are things you used to do that you can no longer do because it is harder to breathe.

Many Americans have asthma, and the number of people who have asthma is increasing worldwide.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

Asthma is a long-lasting condition, even though you might not have any symptoms every day or even every year. Treatment can decrease your day-to-day asthma symptoms. Following your treatment plan can also help keep you from having bad asthma attacks. It is very important to treat asthma attacks right away and to learn to manage your asthma so you can live a healthy, active life.

  • Know the signs and symptoms of your asthma attacks. Watch for symptoms and use your peak flow meter, if you have one.
  • Know how to treat your asthma symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider to give you a written asthma action plan. Following the plan will help you manage your asthma every day. It will help you recognize and handle asthma problems.


  • Your provider will give you a list of medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
    • Relax your airways and prevent asthma attacks
    • Stop asthma symptoms
    • Reduce swelling in the airways
    • Reduce acid in the stomach
  • Ask your provider if it is OK for you to take aspirin. Some people with asthma are allergic to aspirin and it causes them to wheeze.
  • Get a flu vaccination every year as soon it’s available. The flu can make asthma symptoms worse.
  • Talk to your provider about the benefits of getting the pneumococcal vaccine if you have not been vaccinated.


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for all routine testing you may need.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.

Diet, Exercise, and Other Lifestyle Changes

  • Follow the treatment plan your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask about getting a written asthma action plan to help you manage your symptoms and treat any asthma attacks.
  • Learn what things trigger your symptoms and how to stay away from them. Triggers may be perfumes, smoke, pollen, or other things. Preventing contact with triggers can help prevent asthma attacks.
  • Don’t smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke. Smoke can worsen asthma symptoms.
  • Try to stay indoors on days when pollen or air pollution is high.
  • Avoid exposure to chemicals, such as the chemicals used in the manufacturing industry, farming, and hairdressing.
  • Exercise as your provider recommends. Some people have coughing or wheezing only during or after physical activity. This is called exercise-induced asthma. Even though exercise may trigger an asthma attack, exercise is still important. Some ways to prevent an asthma attack during exercise include:
    • Start with a long, slow warm-up to the activity.
    • It may be necessary to use a rescue inhaler before you start exercise.
    • Always have a rescue inhaler with you during exercise.
  • If acid indigestion is making your asthma symptoms worse:
    • Lose weight if you need to and keep a healthy weight.
    • Sleep with the head of your bed raised at least 4 inches, if you have symptoms at night.
  • Find ways to make your life less stressful.

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Severe shortness of breath that does not improve after using your rescue inhaler
  • Wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound when you breathe in or out)
  • Bluish or gray color of your lips or fingernails
  • Chest tightness

Do not drive yourself if you have any of these symptoms.

Call your healthcare provider if:

  • Your medicines do not seem help you breathe comfortably
  • Your symptoms happen more often or are worse than normal
  • You have more trouble with your symptoms at night and you are not sleeping
  • You are not able to do your normal daily activities because of trouble breathing
  • Your peak flow number changes from day to day
  • You have to use your quick-relief inhaler more than 2 days a week
  • You received emergency care for an asthma attack
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-11-07
Last reviewed: 2014-10-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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