Controlling Your Asthma: Triggers, Preventer Puffers, and Action Plans

Why would you want to control your asthma?

After all, two or three puffs of a reliever puffer (inhaler) (see below) a few times per day is easy, gives quick relief, and doesn’t take any commitment. BUT this means that your asthma is controlling you. If your asthma controls you, this is what happens:

Your blood oxygen is lower than normal, this produces fatigue, and you don’t perform as well in school, work, sport or play.

Your sleep pattern is upset and this worsens your fatigue

You are much more susceptible to severe attacks which might require resuscitation in hospital

Only YOU can make the decision to control your asthma, rather than letting it control you.

How do you do this?

ONE – Review the Triggers for your asthma.

Check out the A to K of asthma triggers on this site with yourself, with your doctor, or your asthma educator. The management of your asthma is not complete until you have understood and treated all the triggers for your asthma. IN PARTICULAR, every person who has had asthma treatment in the last 12 months should have a skin test or blood test to check for airborne allergies, such as dust mite, pollens, pets, or moulds. Speak to your doctor.

TWO – Add a Preventer Puffer  (see below) if:

1. you use a reliever puffer more than three times per week (excluding exercise)

2. you feel as though you could use a reliever puffer more than three times per week (excluding exercise)

3. you ever wake up at night needing a reliever puffer

THREE – Get yourself an Action Plan so that you know how to prevent an attack, or control an attack should it occur.

You can’t have an effective action plan until you understand steps one and two! For example, if you know that you get asthma every time you get a cold or the flu, then get in early. As soon as you develop symptoms of a cold or the flu (sore throat, fever, glands in neck, blocked snuffly nose with dirty discharge, feeling lousy, aches and pains), DON’T WAIT for it to go to your chest – start your preventer puffer and see your doctor.

Another example. If you know that you get asthma every time you stay at your girlfriend’s (or boyfriend’s) place because of his/her cat, take an antihistamine tablet two hours BEFORE you go, and review your asthma action plan.

Often a written asthma action plan is very useful. Your doctor or Asthma Educator can help here.

You will find more advice on some of the links on this site.


There are various types of asthma puffers (inhalers).

Reliever puffers work within three minutes to relieve asthma, but they wear off quickly, and do nothing to get rid of the red, angry, inflamed airways in your lungs. Preventer puffers work slowly, over days, and they do NOT relieve sudden attacks. But they do settle down angry airways and decease mucus (slime) in the chest, making sudden attacks much less likely.

You may wish to check the names of these products in your part of the world. In Australia, reliever puffers are: Asmol, Ventolin, Epaq, Bricanyl, Airomir and Atrovent. Preventer puffers are: Alvesco, Qvar, Pulmicort, Flixotide, and weaker ones that are useful in certain conditions are Tilade, Intal and Intal Forte.

Combination preventer and symptom controller sprays can be very useful. These include Seretide and Symbicort.  A non-steroid tablet (not a puffer) called Singulair is sometimes used for mild asthma, especially in children, and an old-fashioned oral drug (again not a puffer) called theophylline has a very limited role these days.


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