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Asthma – The basics

Managing your asthma

So, I mentioned in my last blog that I have brittle/severe asthma. This post is about asthma in general and how I manage it with life/uni etc. I’ll also try and throw in some hints/tips or things that I use to make things a little bit easier. Cause managing severe asthma can be a right pain in the arse.

So, we will start with some basic facts. 5.4million people in the UK have asthma, that equates to about 1 in 12 people. Every 10 seconds, someone in the UK is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. That’s a lot of people.

Asthma is a respiratory condition that mainly affects your bronchioles, the small airways in your lungs. When you inhale something that may irritate your lungs, the airways go into a spasm and close making it hard for the air to go through the lungs. This can cause the feeling of tight chestedness, shortness of breath and wheezing. Although everyone is different and experience their own symptoms, so there are other symptoms that you can experience.

So how do you deal with this condition? An important thing to remember is you’re not alone and there is a lot of other people with this condition, so there’s lots of resources out there for newly diagnosed people. Asthma UK are the main charity in the UK for people with asthma and have lots of stuff on their website to help.

One thing all asthmatics should have is a personal action plan. Asthma UK have one on their website which is one that you can fill out with your GP/Asthma nurse. If you have severe asthma, this action plan is not very well suited to you, and many severe asthmatics don’t have a proper action plan as a result of their not being able to find one that suits. I’ve made my own one, and this is an example of it below. I’ve left out values etc incase someone does want to download it. It’s not overly complicated and is quite basic, but for me, basic is better.

So, for milder asthmatics who don’t need to factor in nebulisers etc, Asthma UK’s action plan is available to download from here.

So, Apps for managing asthma. There are 2 apps that I use for managing my asthma. I use AsthmaMD and Medisafe. I’ll start with AsthmaMD.

So, Asthma MD is an American app so it’s a bit strange to navigate. What is very useful though is that it has a good peak flow based action plan. It will ask you your height and weight and work out your predicted best peak flow and fashion an action plan (AP) from that. However, my predicted peak flow is a lot lower than my personal best, which is what I work off.  I’ve attached screenshots of what it looks like when working off your height and weight at the bottom. One of the best features I find is that it tracks your peak flow onto a chart and shows you what zones you’re in, the dates and times you hit them and then plots the line for you. You can then show this graph to your health professional if you so wish. I’ve recently got a new phone, so I haven’t gotten around to setting it up on my new phone, so the graph I’m going to put in isn’t filled in yet! I know it says I’ve not done a peak flow since 2015, that’s not entirely true! I haven’t used the right account on here in ages, so the one I’ve signed into is my old account. I’m not that bad at managing my asthma, honest!

As you can see above, I’ve loaded a screenshot of what the peak flow graph looks like, and then the predicted peak flows and signs/symptoms I may be experiencing.

Part of the app is that you can input what medications you are taking as both reliever and preventer medications. You can put what you need to do in time with the different zones you may be in on your AP. Unfortunately, as this is an American app, some of the medications are in the brand name that the Americans use, but they do have the generic names beside for most of the medications and there is the option to add your own if needs be.

Positives and Negatives of Asthma MD.

Positives

  • It is very colourful and user friendly.
  • The peak flow tracker is very good and easy to read.
  • You can put your own peak flow data into and not have to use the predicted.
  • You can add your action plan into it so you will know what to do for each peak flow reading
  • You can add your medication into it
  • It can remind you to take your medications
  • It’s free.

Negatives

  • It is American, so the medication names are all the American brands
  • It’s not useable on iPads unless you don’t mind it only being iPhone size on your iPad screen

So, AsthmaMD has a lot of positives and for me, few negatives. It’s good for tracking my asthma and I’m going to try and get better at actually checking my peak flows!

Another app I find very handy to manage my medication is an app called Medisafe. You can input all your medication into it and it will remind you when you need to take them. You can also put in when you need extra reliever medication. It’s been a game changer for me because I’m hopeless at remembering to take my meds during the day or if I’m out, forgetting to take them when I get home. But you can set your home and work into it and it can remind you take them when you reach home or work. Very handy!

  This app does have the ability to have more than one account, but you do have to pay for it. The basic version will allow you to do most of the features I list, but in order to make use of the “premium features” you need to pay £3.99 a month. This gives you:

  • Unlimited family members
  • The ability to monitor more than 20 health measurements such as temperature, blood pressure, heart rate etc.
  • You can change the colours of the app.
  • Different alarm voices

I used it without paying for a long time and found it did the job I needed it to. I just got bored of looking at the same colours so I pay the extra £3.99 a month.

Positives and Negatives of Medisafe

Positives

  • Can input all your medications, there is no limits
  • Can set different times for taking your medication
  • Will give you the option to use the brand name (eg – Salbutamol is known as Ventolin, Paracetamol is known as Panadol etc…)
  • You can snooze the alarm if you’re not near your meds so it will remind you in either 10,20,30mins etc.
  • Will recognise when you get home and remind you to take your medications then.
  • Easy to set up and use

Negatives

  • Can be very time-consuming inputting all the medications
  • The app is American, so the brand names are all American ones, but you have the ability to put your own medications brand name in if you so wish.
  • You do have to pay for the extra features.

Neither of the apps I’ve listed above cost anything to download, and I’ve found they’re game changers in my adherence and compliance.

One thing that is very important in management of ANY chronic illness, not just asthma, is medication compliance. I get my medication in blister trays as I’m on so many tablets. But it’s hard to keep focused 100% of the time on taking every medication you’re prescribed at the time you’re meant to take it. I’m guilty as sin for this and do miss doses of medications a few times a week. I’ve gotten A LOT better during lockdown

So that wraps up my blog on asthma! Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question! I’m curious as to how many people actually read this and don’t just click on it for sh!ts and giggles!

Until next time!

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