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Ask the Doctor: Asthma Attacks

Matthew Collins, M.D., M.B.A., BCBSRI Chief Medical Officer

Q. I have asthma, and my attacks happen more often in the spring and summer. What can I do to prevent them?

A. Your question is a popular one at this time of year. The pollen and air pollution in the summer can worsen asthma problems in many people.

Asthma is a serious health condition that can be life threatening. For those who’ve never experienced an asthma attack, it’s often described as trying to breathe through a straw stuffed with cotton. However, it’s absolutely possible to live an active life.

Controlling your asthma starts with working with your doctor to create or update your “asthma action plan,” which includes:

  • The medications you take daily for long-term asthma control
  • How to identify early signs of an attack, including which quick relief (rescue) medications to take
  • When to call the doctor or go to the emergency room

Your plan may also include triggers that cause your asthma attacks. If you’re not sure what your triggers are, work with your doctor to identify them so they can be avoided. Common triggers include tobacco smoke, dust mites, pets, and mold.

If you have an inhaler, you may also want to show your doctor how you use it. One in three people use their inhalers incorrectly. With these steps, I hope you’re able to have a healthier summer this year.

How common is asthma?

RI average .................... 10.8%
National average ........ 7.7%

Ask for extra help

Struggling to manage your asthma? If you belong to a patient-centered medical home, your doctor may have a nurse in the office who can work with you at no cost. Or you can work with a BCBSRI nurse at no cost over the phone or at one of our retail stores. To learn more, please call (401) 459-2273 or 1-800-637-3718, extension 2273.