What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung condition that affects 26 million Americans, including 6.1 million children.1 When people with asthma are exposed to certain triggers—such as allergens, heavy exercise, smoke, and even cold air—their airways tighten and become inflamed, creating extra mucus and making it difficult to breathe.2
Typical asthma symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing (a rasping or whistling sound when you breathe)
- Coughing or spitting up mucus
- Tightness in your chest
Managing Your Asthma
Monitor Your Symptoms
If you have asthma, it’s critical to pay attention to your condition to avoid a flare-up. You can do this with a peak flow meter and an asthma diary.
Peak Flow Meters—A peak flow meter is a small, handheld device that measures the force of air as you blow out. A strong, hard breath means your asthma is under control; a small, weak breath tells you that your airways are tight.3
Asthma Diary—Use an asthma diary to write down your peak flow results regularly each day and whenever you start to feel severe asthma symptoms. You can review your asthma diary with your doctor to find asthma trigger patterns and create an Asthma Action Plan.4
The best way to prevent an asthma flare-up is to take your asthma medications as directed by your doctor. There are two types of asthma medications:
Long-Term (controller)—When used regularly, controller medications can help you manage asthma symptoms. Some types of these medications are:
- Inhaled corticosteroids and leukotriene inhibitors, which are oral medications that prevent inflammation
- Long-acting inhalers that help open airways
- Anti-IgE therapy injections that block inflammation for people with severe asthma
Quick-Relief (rescue)—If you have a flare-up, use your rescue medications to relieve your asthma symptoms. These are usually short-acting inhalers, also called bronchodilators.5
To learn how to properly use an inhaler, watch this video.
To see the asthma medications covered by our plans, use our Medication Lookup Tool.
Talk to Your Doctor
Take the proper steps and precautions to avoid an asthma flare-up. Work with your doctor to find the best way to manage your asthma, and make sure to take your medication as directed. Your doctor can also tell you how to determine when it’s time to refill your inhaler or other medications.
Create an Asthma Action Plan6
Develop an Asthma Action Plan with your doctor so that you know the steps to take when you have asthma symptoms. Your Asthma Action Plan should include:
- When and how to properly take your controller and rescue medications
- How to handle your asthma symptoms based on your peak flow meter reading
- What to do when asthma symptoms occur
Make sure that you understand your action plan, and share it with your family, friends, and caregivers.
Additional Tools and Resources
Our Care Management Program
Our Care Managers support members who may have had a recent change in health, a chronic condition they may need help managing, or a recent hospitalization. Participation in this program is completely voluntary, is offered at no additional cost to you, and won’t affect your benefits. Learn more about Care Management. To get started, call us at 1-800-392-0098, Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET, Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET (TTY users: dial 711).
More Tools, Resources, and Information About Asthma
- ahealthyme®´—Get the latest education and updates about asthma, avoiding triggers, using a peak flow meter, and more.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute—Read expert information about the causes, risks, and treatments of asthma.
- Massachusetts Department of Public Health—Know how your environment impacts your asthma.