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Living with asthma

Asthma treatments can help control symptoms and reduce the risk of asthma attacks. But there are other things you can do to live well with asthma.

These things include:

  • creating a plan to manage your asthma
  • monitoring your symptoms at home
  • avoiding asthma triggers
  • doing physical activity
  • looking after your mental health
  • getting support if you need it

Creating a plan to manage your asthma

An asthma action plan helps you to manage your asthma.

You make this plan with your GP, asthma nurse or at your integrated care hub (care hub).

The plan includes information on:

  • your medicines and how to take them
  • how to control your symptoms
  • what to do if you have an asthma attack
  • how to know if your symptoms are getting worse and what to do
  • emergency contact information

Asthma action plan -

To get a printed plan, you can call the Asthma Advice line on 1800 44 54 64.

Using your asthma action plan

To make sure your plan works for you:


  • keep your plan up to date with information about any medical visits or changes to your medicines

  • bring your plan to every appointment

  • check your plan every month and at your review appointments

  • share your plan with family and people at your work or activities so they know what to do if you have an asthma attack

Asthma review appointments

You'll have routine appointments with your GP or asthma nurse.

They may:

  • ask you about your symptoms and how they affect your normal activities
  • ask you about your medicines and any side effects
  • do breathing tests
  • suggest joining the chronic disease management programme if you have a medical card or GP visit card

You can also ask questions and discuss any other issues you have.

If your asthma becomes difficult to control, they may refer you to a care hub.

Monitoring your asthma at home

Use your peak flow meter to monitor your asthma at home.

A low peak flow score may be a sign that:

  • your asthma is getting worse
  • your medicine is not working well
  • you're having an asthma attack

Do not do a peak flow test if you think you are having an asthma attack. Follow the steps in your asthma action plan.

How to use a peak flow meter (video)

Where you can get a peak flow meter

You can buy a peak flow meter from pharmacies.

You may also get 1 through your care hub or hospital team.

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP if:

  • your peak flow score is low
  • you use your reliever inhaler 2 or 3 times a week or more

Avoiding asthma triggers

Asthma symptoms can happen after exposure to a trigger. Your symptoms may start immediately or a few hours after exposure.

Keep a diary of your asthma symptoms and attacks to help you find your asthma triggers. Measuring your peak flow before and after exposure to a possible trigger may help.

Avoiding triggers can help you control your symptoms and prevent asthma attacks.

Learn about common asthma triggers and how to reduce the risk from them.


Viruses such as colds and flu can inflame your airways and cause them to make more mucus. This can make it harder to breathe or trigger an asthma attack.

Colds and flu

Colds, flu and other viral infections are more common in winter.

To protect yourself from viral infections:

  • get the annual flu vaccine in the autumn - you can get vaccinated at your GP or a local pharmacy
  • check that you have had the pneumococcal vaccine
  • wash your hands properly and often
  • check that visitors to your home or workplace do not have symptoms of colds or flu
  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • do not share objects that touch your mouth, for example, bottles or cups
  • follow advice on how to avoid getting a chest infection

Your COVID-19 vaccine will help to prevent serious illness from COVID-19.

Seasonal boosters of the COVID-19 vaccine

Lifestyle factors

Lifestyle factors that can trigger asthma include smoking and eating certain foods.

Smoking and vaping (using e-cigarettes)

You'll have more asthma symptoms if you:

You may also need more medicines to control your asthma.

Keep your home smoke-free. The best thing you can do for your health is not to smoke or vape (use e-cigarettes).

Get help to quit smoking

Food additives and preservatives

People with asthma do not usually have to follow a special diet.

Some food additives and preservatives can trigger an asthma attack. This trigger is more common in children.

Food and drink and asthma -


Stress can make asthma symptoms worse.

Stress - tips and self-help


Allergies to dust mites, animals or pollen can trigger asthma.

Dust and dust mites

To reduce the risk from dust and dust mites:

  • choose wood or hard vinyl floor coverings instead of carpet if possible - carpets and rugs can hold lots of dust
  • dust with a damp cloth every week
  • wear a dust mask when you are dusting or cleaning
  • wash your bed-clothes at 60 degrees Celsius every week
  • use allergy-proof covers for your duvet, pillows and bed-clothes

Asthma triggers in the bedroom (video)

Pets and animals

Allergies can develop at any time. The next time you spend some time away from your pet, see if your symptoms improve. If you think you are allergic to your pet, talk to your GP about allergy testing.

If animal allergies are a serious trigger, you may need to rehome your pet.

If you cannot rehome your pet:

  • use a special vacuum cleaner for pet hair - one with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter may be more effective
  • keep your pets out of your bedroom and living areas
  • keep your pets outside as much as possible
  • do not allow your pets on fabric-covered furniture, rugs and carpets
  • get someone to wash your pet around twice a week

Using an air cleaner with a HEPA filter in your bedroom or living room may be beneficial. These devices can help reduce allergen levels if you use them along with other measures.


About 8 in 10 people who have asthma also have hay fever. If you have hay fever, pollen could be an asthma trigger for you.

When the pollen count is high:

  • use your controller or MART inhaler consistently
  • keep your reliever inhaler with you

Check the pollen forecast -

You can treat hay fever symptoms with:

Early treatment can help manage your symptoms and reduce your risk of an asthma attack.

Asthma treatments


Some medicines can trigger asthma symptoms. Tell your GP or care hub team if any medicines seem to trigger your asthma.

Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can trigger asthma symptoms in some adults with asthma.

You may be more at risk of this reaction if you also have nasal polyps.

If you are sensitive to aspirin and NSAIDs:

  • talk to your GP or pharmacist about other medicines
  • read the labels of medicines to treat pain, colds and fever before you take them
Beta blockers

Beta blockers are medicines used to treat:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • migraines
  • glaucoma - in the form of eye drops

If you have asthma and need to take beta blockers, your doctor will monitor you for side effects. Tell your doctor if any medicines make your asthma symptoms worse.


Environmental factors such as weather conditions or air pollution can trigger asthma.

Changing weather

It can be hard to predict if the weather is going to trigger asthma symptoms. Keep your inhaler with you in case you need it.

Check the weather forecast -

Hot weather

Keep your inhaler with you if hot weather can trigger your symptoms. Keep it in a cooler bag and out of sunlight. Air quality is usually better in the morning so try to get outside earlier in the day.

Cold weather

Cold air can shock your lungs and trigger an attack. Wear a scarf around your nose and mouth to stop this happening.


The atmosphere before and during a thunderstorm can trigger asthma. If thunderstorms trigger your asthma, avoid going outside when a thunderstorm is due.

Work environment

Work-related asthma is when exposure to irritants at work:

  • makes your existing asthma worse (work-aggravated asthma)
  • causes your asthma (occupational asthma) - your symptoms may disappear if you avoid the irritants

Irritants can include dust or certain chemicals.

Common causes of occupational asthma include:

  • isocyanates - chemicals in spray paint
  • flour and grain dust
  • colophony - a substance in solder fumes
  • latex
  • animals
  • wood dust

Talk to your employer if you are diagnosed with occupational asthma.

It may be possible to:

  • substitute or remove the substance that triggers your asthma from your workplace
  • change your role within the company
  • provide you with protective breathing equipment

Occupational asthma and dermatitis -

Air pollution

Outdoor pollution can include car fumes, smog, ozone and smoke. Check the air quality regularly and keep your inhalers with you on days when the air quality is not good.

Check the air quality index for health -

Indoor air quality

We spend more time inside during the winter months.

To help improve indoor air quality and reduce asthma triggers:

  • keep rooms well aired so they are not too warm
  • use only the recommended fuel for your fire or stove
  • keep your flues clear and chimneys swept so smoke escapes properly

The Asthma Society of Ireland can give you practical advice on how to make your home asthma friendly.

Freephone: 1800 44 54 64

Mould and damp

Moulds and fungi grow on walls and windows in damp houses.

To help prevent mould and damp in your home:

  • use an extractor or open a window when cooking or having a shower to prevent condensation
  • keep any curtains clean, especially bathroom curtains
  • dry your washing outside, if you can
  • remove mould in bins by washing and disinfecting them

Asthma and physical activity

Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It can help improve lung capacity and reduce asthma symptoms.

Your GP may refer you for pulmonary rehabilitation if you have symptoms of asthma and COPD. Pulmonary rehabilitation is an exercise and education programme that helps you to stay active if you have breathing difficulties.

To exercise well with asthma:


  • take your asthma medicines and other allergy medicines as prescribed

  • have your reliever inhaler with you when you exercise

  • warm up for at least 10 minutes to help your body prepare for more vigorous exercise

  • avoid exercising outside when the pollen count is high if you have allergic asthma

  • cover your mouth and nose with a loose scarf if the air is cold

  • share your asthma action plan with the people you exercise with

If you have asthma symptoms during exercise

Exercise should not trigger your asthma when your asthma is under control.

If you have asthma symptoms during exercise:

  1. Stop exercising.
  2. Use your reliever or MART inhaler.

Wait at least 5 minutes until you can breathe easily and have no symptoms before you start again.

Asthma and your mental health

Many people with asthma can have feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.

You may find it helpful to talk about your experience of asthma with others. Ask your GP about your nearest asthma support group.

If you feel you're struggling to cope, talk to your GP. They can give you advice and support.

Information and advice about mental health

Asthma and pregnancy

Asthma does not affect your chances of having children. But your asthma symptoms may change during pregnancy.

Talk to your GP if you are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy. If your asthma symptoms change, they may need to review your treatment. There is a risk of complications if your asthma is not under control during pregnancy. For example, pre-eclampsia or premature birth.

Most asthma medicines are considered safe while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Talk to your midwife about how to keep your symptoms under control during labour. They may need to take extra precautions. But asthma attacks during labour are rare.

COVID-19 and pregnancy

Support for asthma

Support is available to help you manage your asthma.

Asthma Society of Ireland

Asthma Society of Ireland provides information and advice on asthma.

Freephone: 1800 44 54 64

Send a WhatsApp message to 086 059 0132

Support information -

Living Well programme

Living Well is a free programme for people with a long-term health condition. It provides workshops and resources to help you manage your condition better.

The Living Well programme

Healthcare costs

To help with healthcare costs, you may be eligible for a:

Page last reviewed: 8 December 2023
Next review due: 8 December 2026

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 9.