Teens With Asthma, You’ve Got This!

Easy ways to stop breathing problems from getting in the way of having fun

Girl with inhaler (and mom) talking to doctor about asthma

You’ve had asthma for as long as you can remember. And during that time your parents and trusted adults have been keeping a close eye on your health and your breathing. It’s great having someone in your corner, but as you become more independent and start to control more of your own schedule, you’re ready to step into the boss role of your own lung health. Use these expert tips to stay healthy—and have fun.

Take the lead with your asthma action plan. If you’re not familiar with that term, chances are you haven’t been paying close attention at your doctor visits. David Jeong, M.D., an asthma specialist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, says an asthma action plan outlines the steps needed to keep your symptoms under control. It includes everything from the daily medications you need to how to handle asthma attacks and when to get emergency help. Go over your own plan with your doctor and parents or guardian and ask questions if any part of it isn’t clear.

Open up to your doctor. Let him or her know what kinds of activities you enjoy doing with friends. You’re not asking for their approval, but the more your doctor knows about the things you want to do—joining the soccer team or dance club, say, or taking a band trip overseas—the better able they’ll be to help you adjust any part of your action plan to keep symptoms in check.

Make taking your medicine a priority. One of the biggest challenges for teens with asthma is taking medication on time as prescribed by their doctor. The best way to show your parents that you’re ready for this responsibility is to show them that you know how and when to take your meds—without their prompts. Keep your inhaler where you can’t miss it and consider setting up reminders on your smartphone.

Have a plan for bad days. A bad grade, homework piling up, misunderstandings with friends—no one is immune to bad days. When you are living with asthma, it’s important to remember that stress and strong emotions can change your breathing, which can trigger asthma attacks.Think of a few ways to get through difficult situations, says Dr. Jeong, and practice them regularly so they feel natural to you. Some ideas: going for a walk, doing yoga or deep breathing. If you’re having a hard time working through something on your own, it’s important to speak up and ask for help.

Give your friends a heads-up. They don’t need to know everything about your triggers, but it’s smart to let your close friends or a few teammates (or group members) know what an asthma attack looks like and where you keep your inhaler so they can help you, if necessary.

Know when to call 911. When asthma symptoms flare up, it’s important to follow the steps you and your doctor discussed in your asthma action plan to get your breathing under control or get the help you need, says Dr. Jeong. If your medicines don’t relieve an asthma attack, ask an adult for help and call your doctor. If you’re having trouble walking and talking because you’re out of breath, call 911 for emergency care.