Managing to catch your breath

CatchYourBreathIf you’re one of the 25 million Americans who suffer from asthma, breathing easy isn’t always, well, easy. Asthma is unpredictable. It can make you nervous and reluctant to try new things that could leave you out of breath. If this is how you’ve been coping with asthma, it’s time to take control.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) offers members a variety of tools to help manage health. For chronic conditions such as asthma, the Healthy Companion program provides a wide array of timely information, education and one-on-one support that will help you control—not simply cope with—your asthma.

Program components include support to help you understand your disease and treatment; education and coaching to empower you to make lifestyle choices that can improve your overall health; and positive dialogue between you and your doctor.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members who have been identified with any of the conditions supported by the program are automatically enrolled and will receive an educational welcome packet. If, however, you have been recently diagnosed and would like to sign up for immediate support, contact Healthy Companion.

Once you are in the program, you can expect to receive tools and information that will help you work with your health care provider to create an asthma management plan that is right for you. These include a newsletter, educational resources and even clinical support. A BCBS nurse may contact you from time to time to assist with your care plan, answer questions and provide support and encouragement.

Could I have asthma?

The number of people with asthma continues to grow. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, 1 in 12 people have asthma compared to 1 in 14 a decade ago.

KC Health Care Trust Employee Clinic Nurse Practitioner Nik Webb says that if you are having any asthma-like symptoms, you should seek treatment right away. Also, try to pinpoint any possible “triggers” and avoid them, if possible.

“The only way to know if you have asthma is through a careful history and physical examination,” Webb says. “You will need to keep a log of when you are having difficulty breathing and the activities that you were engaged in. Your MD will perform additional testing, such as a chest x-ray, incentive spirometry and peak-flow testing.”

Asthma contact triggers include:

  • Allergens
  • Exposure to smoke
  • Exercise
  • Infections (cold, flu, etc.)
  • Changes in weather
  • Stress or other emotional triggers
  • Certain medications

Your asthma management plan should include keeping an asthma diary, avoiding triggers and taking medications as prescribed, says Webb.

“You should see your MD regularly,” she says, “The frequency depends upon how often you are having acute attacks and how well you are managing it. If you are using your rescue inhaler daily or several times a week, then this also calls for a visit.”