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Asthma in Teens: Care Instructions

Lungs in chest showing location of bronchial tubes in left lung, with detail of healthy airway and airway narrowed by asthma


Asthma makes it hard for you to breathe. During a flare-up, the airways swell and narrow. Severe asthma flare-ups can be dangerous, but you can usually prevent them. Controlling asthma and treating symptoms before they get bad can help you avoid bad flare-ups. You may also avoid future trips to the doctor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results, including spirometry, keep a list of the medicines you take, build an Asthma Action Plan and keep it handy.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan so you can manage your symptoms at home. An Asthma Action Plan will help you prevent flare-ups and control asthma. If you do not have an Asthma Action Plan, work with your doctor to build one.
  • Take your asthma medicine exactly as prescribed. Medicine plays an important role in controlling asthma. Talk to your doctor right away if you have any questions about what to take and how to take it.
    • Use your quick-relief medicine when you have symptoms of a flare-up. Quick-relief medicine often is a salbutamol or combination inhaler, like Symbicort. Some people need to use quick-relief medicine before they exercise.
    • Take your controller medicine every day, not just when you have symptoms. Controller medicine is usually an inhaled corticosteroid, a combination inhaler, or a pill. The goal is to prevent problems before they occur.
    • If your doctor prescribed corticosteroid pills, take them as directed, until they are finished. They may take hours to work, but they may shorten the attack and help you breathe better.
    • Keep your medicines with you at all times.
  • Talk to your doctor before using other medicines. Some medicines, such as aspirin, can cause asthma flare-ups in some people.
  • Regular spirometry, organized by your doctor, is a good way to monitor how well your lungs are working.
  • If you have a peak flow meter, use it to check how well you are breathing. This can help you predict when an asthma flare-up is going to occur. Then you can take medicine to prevent the asthma flare-up or make it less severe.
  • See your doctor regularly. These visits will help you learn more about asthma and what you can do to control it. Your doctor will monitor your treatment to make sure the medicine is helping you.
  • Keep track of your asthma flare-ups and your treatment. After you have had a flare-up, write down what triggered it, what helped end it, and any concerns you have about your Asthma Action Plan. Take your diary when you see your doctor. You can then review your Asthma Action Plan and decide if it is working.
  • Do not smoke or vape or allow others to smoke or vape around you. Avoid places where smoking and vaping are allowed. These habits make asthma worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Learn what triggers an asthma flare-up for you, and avoid the triggers when you can. Common triggers include colds, smoke, air pollution, dust, pollen, mould (including snow mould), pets, cockroaches, stress and other strong emotions, and cold air.
  • Avoid colds and the flu. Get a flu vaccine every year, as soon as it is available. If you must be around people with colds or the flu, wash your hands often. Ask your healthcare provider about the pneumococcal vaccine.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your symptoms do not get better after you have followed your asthma action plan.
  • You cough up yellow, dark brown, or bloody mucus (sputum).

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your coughing and wheezing get worse.
  • You need to use quick-relief medicine on more than 2 days a week (unless it is just for exercise). Or if you are using the maximum dose of your combination inhaler (Symbicort).
  • You need help figuring out what is triggering your asthma attacks.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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