Monitoring severe asthma symptoms

Find out why it’s a good idea to monitor your symptoms when you have severe asthma, and the different ways you can do this, including recording your peak flow, keeping a diary, and using apps on your phone

Why it’s helpful to monitor your severe asthma symptoms

If you have severe asthma, you may find yourself dealing with asthma symptoms most days. Often people with severe asthma have other health conditions to manage as well.

Because of this, it’s easy to lose track of what symptoms you had when, and what might have set them off. You may even get used to difficult symptoms and think they’re just ‘normal’ for you.

Tracking symptoms is one way to help you feel more in control. Just a few minutes a day to note down your symptoms can make a big difference to how well you and your doctor manage your severe asthma.

Tracking symptoms can help you:

  • know your symptoms are under control and your medicines are working well – which can be reassuring and a good boost to your confidence
  • recognise when your symptoms are getting worse - so you know to follow your asthma action plan or seek urgent help
  • spot any patterns - for example, if your asthma’s worse because of changes to your hormones, the weather, or pollen levels
  • see if your symptoms are worse at night
  • look back and see how many flare-ups or asthma attacks you’ve had over a period of time, and whether you should ask for a referral if you’re not already under the care of a specialist team
  • help you answer any questions about your symptoms at your next appointment.

Tracking symptoms can also help your doctor or specialist team:

  • see if the medicines you’ve been prescribed are working well
  • see what extra help you may need to manage your triggers and symptoms
  • understand your risk of an asthma attack so they can help you avoid one
  • understand patterns or changes in your symptoms or lung function
  • see exactly how things have been over time, and what your level of control has been in between appointments
  • consider whether or not they should refer you to specialist help for your asthma
  • consider if something else other than severe asthma is causing your symptoms. 

Five ways to monitor your symptoms

Record your peak flow scores

Peak flow is one way to see how your asthma is. As well as your peak flow scores, make a note of any symptoms you had, and other things going on that day. Daily readings help you see any patterns, and is a useful way to show your doctor or specialist team how your asthma’s been.

Download a peak flow diary

Take a quick note

Use the notes function on your phone, or keep a notebook and pen handy, so it’s easy to add any triggers or symptoms whether you’re at home, or out.

A small diary lets you add in symptoms and triggers every day, without needing to add in the date each time. You could try a week-to-view diary so it’s easy to see how your asthma’s been across the week.

Don’t forget to write down anything else you think could have set off your symptoms, like pollution levels or stress, and whether you needed to use your reliever medicine.

Use an app

See if you can find a tracking app that you like online. There are lots of different apps available to suit different phones or tablets.

Use a wall calendar

If you’re using a wall calendar, you could try using coloured sticky dots to mark how your symptoms are doing. Use green for good days, yellow for not so good, and red for lots of symptoms. Leave some space to say what triggers you came across, and any other key information.

Track your symptoms on a chart or spreadsheet

Some people like to create their own spreadsheet, so it’s easy to fill in symptoms, triggers, peak flow, and reliever use.

An online spreadsheet is easy to share with your doctor or asthma nurse if you need to.

How to make the most of monitoring symptoms

Whether it’s using a notebook and pen, your phone, or an app, make sure you:

  • write the date – including the day of the week.
  • record any symptoms you’ve noticed. Don’t forget symptoms affecting your nose, like hay fever, or if you felt more tired than usual.
  • note down if you used your reliever medicine, how many puffs you needed, and if it helped.
  • take note of good days too – were there any symptoms you didn’t have that day?
  • add some detail about what you were doing, such as the weather, or if you felt stressed.  
  • get into a good routine of noting your symptoms every day– last thing at night, first thing in the morning, whatever works best for you, so you’re more likely to get into the habit of doing it. You could also set a reminder on your phone.

Use an asthma action plan

Use an asthma action plan alongside your symptom diary or chart. That way you know exactly what to do if symptoms get worse or you have an asthma attack.

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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