The first line of defense in diagnosing and treating asthma is a patient’s health care provider. Nevertheless, asthma condition management remains an under-recognized need. The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) created Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (EPR-3), which gives physician’s a new look at the control and prevention of asthma attacks and symptoms.
In the updated guidelines, the NAEPP outlines six clinical practice recommendations to aid with asthma condition management. These include:
1. The use of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). According to the NAEPP, inhaled corticosteroids are one of the most effective and preferred tools for the long-term control of persistent asthma in children and adults. It’s vital that physicians communicate the effectiveness and importance of ICSs to patients and their care givers.
2. Written asthma action plans. Written plans are integral to the self-management and prevention of asthma symptoms. While physicians can give patients and families asthma management instructions orally, the instructions can be easily forgotten. An asthma action plan is a clearly written set of instructions and an informational guide that helps patients self-manage their condition, identify asthma triggers, recognize worsening asthma symptoms and have a plan in place for asthma attacks.
3. The assessment of asthma severity. When health care providers first meet with a patient, the NAEPP recommends they conduct a severity assessment to measure the current level of impairment the asthma symptoms cause. This assessment helps determine future risk and create an initial treatment plan.
4. The assessment and monitoring of asthma control. When a patient returns for follow-up appointments, the health care provider should assess the patient’s level of asthma control as well as future risks. Regular monitoring and assessments allow a physician to determine what therapy option needs to be maintained or adjusted.
5. Periodic physician visits. Asthma symptoms vary greatly, and an asthma attack can occur with seemingly little warning. Therefore, it’s important for physicians to schedule follow-up visits (and for patients to keep their appointments). These appointments assist with the monitoring and assessment of a patient’s asthma condition management.
6. Controlling environmental exposure to asthma triggers. When a health care provider knows a patient’s asthma triggers, like allergens and irritants, he or she can create a plan to help the patient
reduce the risk of exposure. This technique aids in the prevention of asthma symptoms and can make a patient’s self-care efforts more successful.