It’s that time of year again. Many of us fall victim to allergy-induced sniffles and watery eyes in the spring and early summer, and it can be an even more miserable time for the more than 23 million Americans – including more than 7 million children – who live with asthma. Unfortunately, experts say this year might be worse than ever, with plants and trees producing more pollen and spores than in years past thanks to an especially wet winter.
But Dr. Philip Benditt, one of our medical directors here in Pennsylvania, tells me you can still enjoy the season and live a healthy, active life all year round if you have asthma by following a few simple steps to avoid triggering attacks. Here are some of the tips Dr. Benditt shared with me:
• Understand your asthma. While indoor factors may spur an asthma attack for some, outdoor factors may trigger an attack for others. Keep a journal to track triggers, frequency and duration of asthma attacks, use of maintenance medications and rescue inhalers and other breathing-related data to share with your physician.
• Take your medications. At UnitedHealthcare we’ve found that about half of our health plan participants who take asthma medicines don’t follow their prescriptions. Not taking needed medications or not taking them on time can put you at risk for more frequent and possibly more severe attacks.
• Check for cost savings on your medications. Cost is one of the biggest reasons people don’t refill their asthma prescriptions, but there are solutions. Talk to your physician about more effective and affordable asthma drugs including maintenance inhalers such as Asmanex, Pulmicort Flexhaler and Qvar, and rescue inhalers like Ventolin HFA - all on the lowest copay level of UnitedHealthcare’s prescription drug list. UnitedHealthcare also recently introduced the “Refill and Save Program,” which offers $20 discounts off certain prescription drug copayments – a 40 percent savings on a typical copayment plan – including copays for asthma drugs Advair and Symbicort.
• Think ahead. If pollen is a trigger for you, check the daily pollen count often provided by the local newspaper, radio weather service or television news channels, and plan your activities accordingly. If traveling, research environmental factors that might affect your asthma and locate local health care providers in the event of an emergency. Whether home or away, make sure you have enough of your asthma medications on hand.
According to Dr. Benditt, the key to dealing with asthma is vigilance. Patients with asthma (or any other chronic disease for that matter) who take their medicines regularly and follow prescribed treatment plans will not only feel better but also potentially avoid costly medical problems down the line. So follow these steps, breathe a little easier and get out there and enjoy the season!