A Good Career Move: Manage Your Asthma

By Floria, Barbara

If you have asthma, it's important to keep your symptoms under control, both at home and at work.

“Asthma control is a balancing act between risk and benefits—that is, what’s the risk to my livelihood and health if I don’t take my asthma medications vs. the benefits I gain if I take them as directed,” says Christopher C. Randolph, M.D., an asthma specialist in New Haven, Conn., and a spokesman for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI).

According to the AAAAI:

  • Adults with asthma in total miss about 24.5 million workdays annually.

  • Direct health care costs for asthma in the United States total more than $11.5 billion annually.

  • Lost productivity adds an additional $4.6 billion, for a total of $16.1 billion annually.

To keep your asthma under control:

  • Monitor your peak flow often. Peak-flow readings can give you a heads-up about an impending asthma attack so you can respond. Your asthma management plan should include specific instructions regarding peak-flow readings—how often you should take them and the steps you should take if they’re low.

  • Ask your doctor if you’re taking the minimum amount of medication needed to control your symptoms. “The more medication you take, the higher your risk for side effects, which can interfere with your ability to function at your highest level professionally,” Dr. Randolph says. 

  • Stick to your medication schedule. “The best way to do this is to make it a habit to take your medication,” Dr. Randolph says. “I call it the ‘toothbrush approach,’ meaning every morning when you brush your teeth, take your asthma medication and test your lung function. By linking your asthma management to something you do every day, you’re more likely to keep it controlled.”

  • Know your triggers. Common workplace triggers include dust, chemicals, fumes, perfumes, and smoke. “If your asthma is triggered by allergens, it’s important to avoid exposure to them,” Dr. Randolph says. Other triggers that may affect you at work include changing weather conditions and increased exposure to viral infections, such as colds and flu.

  • Be aware of the risks of travel. Changes in a plane’s cabin pressure can trigger asthma, as can jet-fuel fumes found in planes and airports. “If  you’re on the road, make sure your asthma is under control before you leave home, and keep it controlled while you travel,” Dr. Randolph says. In addition, keep your asthma medications, especially your rescue inhaler, in your carry-on bag. You also should have a letter from your doctor that states your need to carry them with you.

“The better informed you are about your asthma triggers and management, the less asthma symptoms will interfere with your activities at work,” Dr. Randolph says. “When you weigh the risks and benefits involved, managing your symptoms is an obvious winner.”

Medical Reviewer: Blink, Robert MD Last Annual Review Date: 2008-11-03T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: Copyright Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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Asthma is more common in boys than girls.