Living with Asthma

The key to living a full, active life with asthma is to develop and follow a personal asthma action plan. Together with your doctor, determine what kind of medicines to take daily and when to take them. Also know when to call your doctor or when to go to the emergency room.

As part of your action plan, you’ll also avoid exposures that trigger your asthma symptoms. Measures to avoid triggers are explained above in Treatments for Asthma.

Use a peak flow meter to measure how well air moves out of your lungs. This small, handheld device gives you a score called a peak flow number. Your doctor will tell you how and when to use a peak flow meter and what kind of information you should record. You’ll start by determining your personal best peak flow number, which is done by recording your score for two to three weeks when your asthma is under good control. The highest number during this period is your personal best. This number can be useful for determining how well your asthma is under control, and a lower number can help warn you of an asthma attack.

Monitor and record your symptoms so that you can measure how well your treatments are controlling your asthma. Signs of good control include: symptoms occurring no more than two days per week and one or two nights per month; ability to carry out normal activities; and use of quick-relief medicines no more than two days per week.

When to Call Your Doctor

  • Your medicines don’t relieve an asthma attack
  • Your peak flow is less than half of your personal best peak flow number

When to Call 9-1-1 for Emergency Care

  • You have trouble walking and talking because you’re out of breath
  • You have blue lips or fingernails


American Lung Association

National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America


Asthma. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: (Accessed October 2010).

Asthma. National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute website. Available at: (Accessed October 2010).