Operation Asthma

02 Jan 2019

The “Operation Asthma” campaign will help participants by providing them with daily asthma advice, resources and information in areas such as medication adherence, exercising, building an asthma support network, quitting smoking and diet. 

Day 11: Managing your Asthma during the Winter Months 

It is extremley important to manage your asthma, especially in the Winter months. Some top tips on managing your asthma in Winter: 

  • Get the flu vaccination. The flu is a very serious, highly contagious, disease, especially for those living with a lung condition. Reduce your risk of contracting the flu by getting vaccinated today.2

  • Reduce your risk of contracting illness. Kindly remind friends and family that even a cold can make your symptoms worse.3 Ask them to wait until they are feeling better before visiting.

  • Wash your hands regularly. Try to avoid coming into contact with harmful bacteria by washing hands, or using hand sanitiser, regularly.4

  • Keep the house warm. It’s important to stay warm during the winter months but make sure your home is well ventilated. If wind and rain triggers your respiratory condition, keep windows closed on particularly bad days.

  • Exercise indoors. Cold and damp air can irritate the airwaves, especially for those living with a respiratory condition such as asthma and COPD.1 Exercising indoors is a great way of improving lung function while also staying warm.6

  • Check the weather forecast. Try to avoid trips outside during particularly cold, wet, and windy weather, which might make breathing more difficult.

  • Wrap up well. If you do plan to go outside during cold weather, wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth. This will both heat and humidify the air, making breathing easier.6

  • Breathe in through your nose. Try to breathe in through your nose, instead of your mouth, this will help to heat the air before it reaches your lungs.1

  • Carry a reliever inhaler with you. Take your prescribed daily medication and have your reliever inhaler with you at all times in case you need it. 7

  • Agree a self-management plan with a healthcare professional. Self-management of symptoms is important, but it’s also important to know who to call and what to do if you are experiencing an attack of symptoms. Agree a self- management plan with your healthcare professional if you don’t already have one in place.

Day 10: The Importance of Using a Spacer with your Inhaler.

A spacer device is a plastic tube device with a mouthpiece or mask at one end, and a space to insert an inhaler at the other. Spacer devices ensure the user gets the maximum benefit from their asthma medication and helps direct it down into the lungs where it's needed.

Spacers are the most effective way for most people with asthma to take their asthma medication. Using a spacer also means there is less risk of side effects from your medication.

Both adults and children with asthma should use spacers with their inhaler device, if the inhaler device is suitable.

For more on spacers see Dr. Eleanor Dunican - consultant respiratory physician at St Vincent’s University Hospital and Associate Professor at the UCD School of Medicine answering some of the most common spacer questions:


What are Spacers? | Asthma Society of Ireland

Day 9: Knowing your Peak Flow

A peak flow is a measurement of how hard you can blow air out of your lungs. You get this reading by blowing into a small plastic tube called a peak flow meter. Most adults and children over six years of age can use a peak flow meter.

The meter has a marker, which slides up the scale as you blow out. The better controlled your asthma, the harder you'll be able to blow out and the higher your peak flow scores will be.

Your ideal score will vary according to your age, sex and height. Your doctor or nurse will probably ask you to take a series of peak flow reading over a few weeks. You should take readings every morning and early evening, before you use your inhalers. Your doctor or nurse will provided you with a chart to plot the results and he or she will look at them to see if your levels are as high as they should be.

Measuring your Peak Flow is important because: you can tell what's really going on in your airways rather than just guessing, you can find out if the treatment you are on is controlling your asthma and it's a record of how well you've been which you can show your doctor or nurse.

You can purchase a peak flow meter or get a free peak flow diary from the Asthma Society of Ireland by contacting 01 8178886 or email office@asthmasociety.ie.

For more on using your peak flow meter: https://vimeo.com/137614200 


Peak Flow Meter

Day 8: Controlling your Asthma while returning to College

January sees the return of many students to college after the Christmas break. For students with asthma at any level, it’s important to remember that correct medical management of your condition is critically important and must not be forgotten during this time.

  • To better control your asthma while returning to college you should:
  • Carry an Asthma Attack Card with you at all times.
  • Have an up-to-date Asthma Action Plan.
  • Register with the college health centre, let them know you have asthma and ask who can be contacted in case of an emergency.
  • Ensure you take your preventer as prescribed and carry your reliever inhaler at all times.
  • If living away from home, tell your roommates about your condition and ensure that the accommodation is non-smoking.
  • Your college house may not be as clean as you are used to. If sensitive to dust mites, bring your own pillows, allergy-proof covers and a mattress cover.
  • Due to the current housing crisis, it is proving increasingly difficult to find college accommodation. Many students will consider living in properties that are unsafe for their health. If you have asthma you need to make sure the accommodation you are living is not damp, and is properly ventilated.

For information on sitting your exams with asthma


Day 6: Smoking Cessation for Quitting Smoking.

Quitting smoking is one of the best lifestyle choices you will ever make. Smoking and asthma are an extremely bad combination. Quitting smoking will help improve your asthma along with your overall health. There are many methods to quitting smoking; one evidence based intervention is smoking cessation which involves a healthcare worker delivering smoking cessation. This includes behavioural change (motivational interviewing) and a recommendation of Nicotine Replacement Therapy.

The framework for smoking cessation consists of 5A’s.

(1) Ask: The healthcare provider will ask you about your smoking. For example you may be asked how much you smoke and about your smoking history. You may also be asked about any failed quit attempts in the past. This will allow your healthcare worker to identify what may have caused the previous attempts to fail so steps can be taken to avoid this problem again.

(2) Advise: The healthcare provider will advise you to quit, advise you of the benefits of quitting smoking and the negative effects of smoking.

(3) Assess: The Healthcare provider will explore your willingness, readiness and confidence to quit. During doing so they will work to identify and explore your motivators and triggers and make an individualised action plan tailored to your needs.

(4) Assist : If you are ready to make a quit attempt the healthcare provider will use behavioural change counselling (motivational interviewing) and Nicotine Replacement Therapy to help you quit.

(5) Arrange-> your healthcare provider will arrange a form of follow up contact with you. This can in person or over the phone & is usually within the first week after the quit date.

No Puff Rule: During smoking cessation sessions you are likely to hear a lot about the “No puff Rule”. This means that once you have quit smoking you need to avoid having even one puff of a cigarette as this one puff could easily get you back smoking - no level of smoke is a safe level.

It is a good idea to reach out to a smoking cessation officer in your area if you are determined to quit smoking.

Click here for an up to date list of smoking cessation officers around the country


Day 5: Signing up for the Asthma Society's E-Learning Programme

January is a great time to set out goals and plan the year ahead, especially when it comes to your career. If you’re a healthcare professional who wants to learn more about asthma and help your patients take control of their condition, our e-learning programme is a great first step!

The e-learning programme covers all aspects of life with asthma and patient care for adults and children, including:

  • Module 1: Diagnosis & Assessment of Asthma
  • Module 2: Treatment of Asthma
  • Module 3: Paediatric Asthma
  • Module 4: Guided Self-Management/ Asthma Action Plans
  • Module 5: Treatment of Asthma attack

There are assessments and case studies throughout the programme to test your knowledge and ensure you’ve mastered each module before moving on to the next one. The programme was designed in conjunction with the National Clinical Programme for Asthma and is designed to support nurses, pharmacists and all healthcare professionals in treating their asthma patients according to international best practice guidelines.

You can access the e-learning programme on elearning.asthma.ie. For more information please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01 817 88 86 or by emailing sam.derwin@asthma.ie


#OperationAsthma Day 4 – The Importance of Having an Asthma Action Plan.

Everyone with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan.

An Asthma Action Plan is a written, step by step guide to help you manage your asthma and recognise when it’s getting worse. Your Asthma Action Plan is filled out with your GP or asthma nurse, who will make sure the plan is completely tailored to you or your child. 

A completed Asthma Action Plan will include the following information:

  • A list of your medication and when to take it (even when you're feeling well)
  • Information on how to care for your asthma when you’re feeling well , slightly symptomatic and even uncontrolled.
  • How to tell if your asthma is getting worse
  • What to do if your asthma symptoms keep getting worse
  • What to do if you have an asthma attack (The 5 Step Rule)
  • Any important contact information like your GP or emergency contacts.

Having a written Asthma Action Plan can help you to: reduce your chance of needing to urgently visit your doctor or the hospital, improve your lung function and reduce the number of days off work or school which are taken because of asthma.

To download your free asthma action plan: https://bit.ly/2VwoenI

Day 3: Giving Up Smoking

At least 75% of people with asthma become wheezy in a smoky room. It has been shown that children with asthma whose parents smoke have more asthma episodes than children whose parents don't smoke.

  • If you smoke or are exposed to passive smoke you increase the risk of asthma attack and may permanently damage your airways.
  • If you smoke as a teenager you increase the risk of your asthma persisting
  • You put your children at risk of asthma if you smoke around them or during pregnancy
  • You also increase the risk of developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

For help quitting smoking, the @hseQuit ‘s online Quit Plan will support you in doing so.

Sign up for the plan to get free help and support to stop smoking.
Signing up will get you:

  • daily email and text support
  • a personalised web page to track your progress
  • one-to-one support from a trained stop smoking advisor
  • tips from people who have stopped smoking


Day 2: Stress and Asthma

Living with a chronic condition like asthma can be a stressful experience, but did you know that stress could be making your asthma worse?

For some people with asthma, strong emotions and stress can act as a trigger for their asthma symptoms. This could be a single intense emotional response or a slow build up over a long time. Either way, it can be difficult to pinpoint the part your emotions play in your asthma. However, if you feel that your emotions aren’t well-balanced then they may be making your asthma worse and causing symptoms such as cough, chest tightness, wheeze and breathlessness. You may need to use your reliever inhaler more often, or even experience an asthma attack. If an attack occurs, it is extremely important to see your healthcare professional as soon as you can.

There are a variety of supports and resources available to help you cope, from stress management strategies to relaxation techniques and meditation apps. Counselling services may also be something to think about, particularly if you are dealing with a bereavement or other major life changes.

If you feel that your emotions may be affecting your asthma, speak to your doctor about the best course of action for you. Living with uncontrolled asthma can be a major source of stress but luckily, there are plenty of options available to get you back on track. Keeping an eye on your condition, working with your healthcare professional and consistently taking your medication as prescribed will all help to minimise your symptoms and hopefully, ease your worries

Day 1: How to Exercise with Asthma


Hi all. To start off our Operation Asthma campaign we’ll be first looking at exercising with asthma. New years resolutions make January an extremely important month for people to work on their fitness. Having asthma doesn’t have to limit your ability to enjoy or excel at sport and exercise. Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone, but especially for people with asthma. In fact, research has shown that a structured exercise regime can improve lung function and can be a key part of good asthma control.

Top Tips for Exercising with Asthma:

Maintain good asthma control by: taking asthma medication as prescribed, managing your asthma triggers and developing an asthma management plan with your healthcare professional.

Always warm up gently for approximately 15 minutes before more vigorous exercising and cool down afterwards. This helps your body and in particular, your lungs, to get ready for the upcoming, more strenuous exercise.

Always have a reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you when you exercise: if your asthma is triggered during exercise take your reliever inhaler approximately 15 minutes before warming up. (2 puffs of a Metered Dose Inhaler or one puff from a Discus or Turbohaler)

Tell people you have asthma: if you are exercising alone, make sure someone knows where you are and what time you are due to return, make sure that your coach and the people you exercise with know you have asthma.

If your asthma is triggered by pollen, you may wish to: check the pollen forecast at www.asthma.ie, avoid exercising outside when the pollen count is high, make sure you are taking the right medication to manage your hay fever as well as your asthma.

If you have asthma symptoms during exercise: STOP, take your reliever medication and wait 5 minutes until you can breath easily and are symptom free before starting again.

The Asthma Society’s 'Reach Your Peak with Asthma booklet' is designed to help people with asthma enjoy exercise and get the most out of the sports they play.