Breathe easier: How to manage your asthma 


young boy using an inhaler for asthma

Asthma is a common but serious breathing problem that affects people of all ages. It makes it hard to breathe and can cause coughing, wheezing and chest tightness. But with the right help, you can manage asthma and breathe easier! 

What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways in your lungs. These are the tubes that carry air in and out when you breathe. When you have asthma, these airways become swollen and inflamed, making it hard for air to move in and out freely.

What causes asthma?

The exact cause of asthma is not known, but it often runs in families. Some things that can trigger asthma symptoms are:   

  • Allergies to pollen, dust or pet dander.   
  • Cold air.   
  • Exercise.   
  • Smoke.   
  • Respiratory infections like a cold or flu. 

How can I manage my asthma?   

Managing asthma means controlling symptoms and preventing asthma attacks. There are different ways to manage asthma.


The main types of asthma medications are:   

  • Controller medications. These are taken every day to prevent asthma symptoms and keep the airways calm. They come in the form of inhalers or pills and help reduce swelling in the airways. Examples include Pulmicort (budesonide), Flovent (fluticasone) and Singulair.  
  • Reliever medications. These are used when you’re having trouble breathing. They work quickly to relax the muscles around the airways and make it easier to breathe. Examples include albuterol and levalbuterol.  
  • Combination preventer medications. These have two to three different medications that help reduce swelling and relax the airway muscles. Examples include Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol) and Breo Ellipta (fluticasone/vilanterol).  

Female doctor showing patient how to use an inhaler for asthma

Lifestyle Changes

Making some changes in your daily life can also help manage asthma.  

  • Avoid triggers. Figure out what causes your asthma symptoms and try to avoid these triggers. This might mean staying indoors on days with high pollen counts or not being around smoke.  
  • Stay active. Regular physical activity is important for everyone, including people with asthma. Talk to your doctor about how to stay active without triggering your asthma symptoms.  
  • Track your symptoms. Keep track of your asthma symptoms and peak flow readings using a peak flow meter or asthma diary. This can help you and your doctor know if your asthma is getting worse and if any changes need to be made to your treatment plan. 

Tip: Our Healthier Living Program helps Alliance members manage chronic conditions. Alliance members who attend the 6-week workshop can get a Target gift card for up to $50! Visit our Heath Rewards Program page for more information.

What is an asthma action plan and how does it help? 

Work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan. This plan will help you know what to do if your asthma symptoms get worse or if you have an asthma attack. Your asthma action plan will include instructions on:   

  • When to take your medications.   
  • When to seek medical help.   
  • How to manage your symptoms. 

Tip: If you have any questions or concerns about your asthma or your medications, talk to your doctor. Your doctor is there to help you manage your asthma and stay healthy. We have tips on how to feel comfortable talking to your doctor. 


Did you find this information helpful?

About the contributor:

Kristin Rath

Kristin Rath is a Communications Content Specialist at Central California Alliance for Health (the Alliance). She works with the health plan’s experts to write on a wide range of health care and wellness topics, including checkups, vaccines, behavioral health and food security. Kristin has been with the Alliance since 2019. She holds Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees in communications.