Running with Asthma: Do You Have a Written Asthma Action Plan?

AsthmaMD provided me with two complimentary Peak Flow Meters. All opinions are 100% mine. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure Policy for more information. 

Before my last post, it had been quite some time since I talked about my asthma here. It’s probably because I’ve been pretty healthy (knock on wood) for the last 6 months. I recently had a little bit of congestion and made myself take a few extra rest days, but I haven’t had to be on steroids or even see my doctor since December.

Running with Asthma | Mommy Runs It

But I do have asthma, and so does my 5 year old daughter. Interestingly enough, neither of us has the typical presentation. She has cough-variant asthma – that means that her main symptom is a dry, non-productive cough. As is often the case with cough-variant asthma, she doesn’t have the other “classic” symptoms like wheezing or shortness of breath. She just gets a persistent cough that drives her crazy during the day and keeps her awake at night. (It’s also the kind of cough that elicits plenty of “you’re a horrible parent for bringing your sick kid out in public” looks from the mommy crowd, but that’s for another post.)

I have adult-onset asthma, which is exactly what it sounds like – my symptoms didn’t appear until I was in my mid-30’s. My asthma is usually triggered by respiratory illness, not by running or other forms of exercise, although a flare-up can bench me for days or even weeks.

Running with Asthma

Obviously running with asthma is possible. (I mean, I’m Mommy Runs It, not Mommy Watches Everyone Else Run It.) In fact, it turns out that running can actually be good for an asthmatic, as long as your asthma is under good control. Running can strengthen your respiratory muscles, help you maintain a healthy weight, and lower your risk for heart disease. A runner with asthma just needs to take a few extra steps before putting on her running shoes.

Running with Asthma | Mommy Runs It

 

  1. Before you get started, see your doctor to ensure that your body and lungs can handle the high intensity of running. Your doctor can also help you come up with a written asthma action plan to control your asthma symptoms. And make sure that your treatment plan is working before you start running.
  2. Carry your rescue inhaler with you at all times. Don’t go on a run without it! My favorite running shorts and skirts are the ones that have pockets that can hold my inhaler. If you don’t have pockets, wear a belt or a pouch.
  3. Consider using your quick-relief asthma medications (such as Albuterol) as prophylactic or preventive medication. Runners with asthma can take a dose as directed a few minutes before a run to help manage symptoms. I do this sometimes, especially when it’s cold outside and/or I’m recovering from a respiratory illness. I’ve found it to be very helpful.
  4. Start out slowly. You have to warm up properly in order to give your airways time to adjust to the demands of an intense cardiovascular workout. Starting suddenly will shock your lungs and can lead to an asthma attack. I almost always find that the first 1-2 miles are the most difficult for me. After that, my lungs become adjusted to the demands of my run, and I am able to breathe comfortably.
  5. Know your triggers and avoid them. Two of the most common triggers are allergens and colder temperatures. It’s not always easy, but try to avoid running outdoors when pollen counts are high. After a run, shower as soon as possible to get the pollen off your hair and skin, and toss your workout clothes directly into the hamper.
  6. Be smart. Pay attention during your run, and if you start to wheeze, cough, or have problems breathing, force yourself to take a break and use your emergency inhaler. Consider wearing a RoadID or similar tag/bracelet that indicates that you have asthma; in an emergency, this can save first responders valuable time. Run with a friend and/or carry your cell phone. And perhaps most importantly, know your body and know your limits.
sources: livestrong.com, asthma.about.com, womenshealthmag.com

What is a Written Asthma Action Plan?

An asthma action plan is an individualized plan that lists instructions for day-to-day self-management, as well as the steps to take in emergency situations. It includes your daily medications, how to recognize the early signs of an asthma attack, when to call your healthcare provider, and when to seek emergency treatment. The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute recommends that “all people with asthma should receive a written asthma action plan to guide their self-management efforts.”

That’s where AsthmaMD comes in – and they’ve done something unique. In our “there’s an app for that” era…well, there’s an app for that. AsthmaMD is a free mobile application that, according to their website, “allows users to easily and quickly log their asthma activity, their medications, and causes of their asthma in the form of a diary. Users may share the diary and a color graph chart of their asthma activities with their physicians to be included in their medical records.” In other words, instead of planning and tracking on a worksheet or in a journal, you can do it directly on your smart phone or tablet.

AsthmaMD is available for free download at the iTunes store for your iPhone or iPod Touch. It’s not currently available for Android devices – and since I’m an Android kind of girl, I wasn’t able to try it out for myself, but it looks pretty cool:

Running with Asthma | Mommy Runs It     Running with Asthma | Mommy Runs It     Running with Asthma | Mommy Runs it

AsthmaMD Peak Flow Meter

I was able to try out their newest product, though – the AsthmaMD Peak Flow Meter. A peak flow meter is a handheld, portable device used to gauge your lung function. It does this by measuring your ability to push air out of your lungs in one hard puff. It’s a simple and straightforward way to track your asthma.

Running with Asthma | Mommy Runs It

My primary care physician measures my asthma activity with a peak flow meter, and he recommended that I purchase one to track my lung performance at home. This was a couple of years ago, and at that time, a peak flow meter wasn’t covered by my insurance. I can’t remember the out-of-pocket cost at my pharmacy, but I do know that it was unreasonable enough for me to search elsewhere. I ended up purchasing one on Amazon.

One thing I love about the AsthmaMD Peak Flow Meter is that it’s affordable. It’s available for $19.99 on Amazon, and you can also pick one up at CVS or Walgreens.

My 5 year old and I both tried out the meter. It’s easy to use and easy to read, and it’s a super handy tool for tracking your day-to-day asthma activity. And when combined with the AsthmaMD app, it can help you keep a convenient and comprehensive asthma journal – and this, in turn, will help with the development of an appropriate written action plan.

Running with Asthma | Mommy Runs It

The AsthmaMD app is available for free download at the iTunes store, and it’s coming soon to Google Play. It can be used with or without the Peak Flow Meter. For more information about AsthmaMD, visit them online and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


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The opinions expressed above are 100% my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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About Sharon Wilhelm

Sharon is a mom, a marathon runner, and a licensed therapist. She owns Mommy Runs It, a fitness & lifestyle blog. She is a passionate advocate of the Galloway training method and knows firsthand that everyday moms can run marathons. Connect with Sharon on Google+.

Comments

  1. Susan Moseley says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I would be using the peak flow meter myself. I was recently diagnosed with Asthma, so this meter would be of good benefit to me, as well as the app you shared. Thank you for the opportunity, and nice review.

    • Hi Susan! It feels strange to be diagnosed as an adult, doesn’t it? At least it did for me. I always thought of asthma as a childhood thing that you grew out of. Hope you’re feeling well and have found a good care plan. Thanks for reading & entering the giveaway! :)

  2. I don’t have asthma but I run with a friend who does. She has had issues before when we’ve run so you just reminded me that I should probably know what to do exactly in case she has a bad attack.

  3. If I win the peak flow meter will be for myself. I have had asthma all my life but was not diagnosed until I was an adult. I always wondered why I could not run without my chest hurting when I was a child. Terrible that my parents never knew because I was forced to run in gym class and I could have had a full out asthma attack.

  4. This will be for me!

  5. I have runners induced asthma, and my husband had general asthma. His used to be really bad but it’s under control now, and mine is fine as long as I bring an inhaler with me on the run in case I start to get wheezy. This would be for both of us!

    • It’s a really great way to determine your baseline and to monitor your symptoms. The app seems really great too. Thanks for reading & entering!

  6. If I win, it would be for my daughter. As a matter of fact we are getting her rechecked tomorrow. I hope her airways are doing as well as they have been over the past year.

  7. gayle gildehaus says:

    My mom has asthma so I would love to give it to her.I had a sister that died from asthma at the age of 26 so this is a subject close to my heart.

    • I’m so sorry, Gayle. I’m pretty newly diagnosed, so if you can think of anything I’ve left out, feel free to let me know! I’m still learning about it. Thanks so much for reading!

  8. My dad has asthma i would give it to him

  9. BrandonKortney Nelson says:

    This will be for my friend! She will love it for her daughter!

  10. me!!! I cannot find mine anywhere!

  11. Angela Kosztowny says:

    Sharon, I am a runner (It has taken me years of running to confidently say that!) I have done four half-marathons and was supposed to run my first full last weekend. However, over the past few months I have been having some issues with coughing and breathing. At my first doctor appointment (May), I was told allergies were causing my symptoms. I was diagnosed with allergies years ago (dust mites, pets, trees, grass) but never take anything since they don’t bother me that much. I also have food allergies and I limit consumption (milk, wheat, eggs). I started my allergy medicine but was still suffering. I went to urgent care a week ago after I noticed my breathing was very shallow and I wasn’t getting any better. I was diagnosed with bronchitis. The doctor said he was concerned I might also have asthma. After much debate, I switched to the half-marathon. I went to my primary doctor yesterday and was diagnosed with asthma. I find it interesting he did not give me the spirometer test (I thought that was the gold-standard). At 48 years old, this is a bit of a shocker and somewhat discouraging. I’m hoping I will be able to return to my normal running routine once I get my asthma under control. Any suggestions as a fellow runner with asthma would be appreciated.

    • Hi Angela! Sorry it’s taken me a few days to respond. Your story is similar to mine. I ended up at urgent care after about 10 days of shallow breathing with no improvement. I just didn’t feel right. The urgent care doc gave me a steroid injection and a breathing treatment. I followed up with my primary care doc and from what I recall, he diagnosed me with asthma primarily based on my symptoms (and also with the peak flow meter). After a few more episodes, he referred me to a pulmonary specialist, and that’s where they did the spirometer and a couple of other tests.

      My primary care doc & I worked together to come up with a plan that worked. I took two preventative medications for a while, but I don’t need either anymore. At this point, I only use my albuterol inhaler as needed. I also sometimes use it before or right at the beginning of a run to help open my airways. And I try to keep my breathing nice & easy those first couple of miles. Once I start huffing & puffing, it’s really hard to get it back under control.

      My asthma is primarily triggered by respiratory illness. I also have allergies, but my biggest allergens are animals, so that’s fairly easy to avoid. Whenever I get a cold/cough and my chest starts to feel tight, I rest. I don’t run. Sometimes after a couple of days of rest, the tightness in my chest goes away on its own. If it doesn’t go away or gets worse, that’s when I need to see my doctor. He uses a peak flow meter to test me against my baseline. Also (I forgot to mention) I almost always lose my voice when my asthma flares up, so that’s another way that he diagnoses me. And then the usual course is steroids (a shot during my office visit and then a 5 day taper pack of pills) and an antibiotic. And this clears it up and I’m good to run again.

      It took me about a year to get this all figured out, so just be patient with your doctor and yourself. What works for me might not work for you at all. But it’s definitely possible to run with asthma – I’m about to start training for my 3rd marathon next week! :) Feel free to email me if you want to talk about this some more – mommyrunsit {at} gmail {dot} com.

  12. It would be for me and my asthma.

  13. It would be for asthmatic me.

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