You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to an allergist or a pulmonologist.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, as well as what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
These steps can help you make the most of your appointment:
- Write down any symptoms you're having, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Note when your symptoms bother you most — for example, if your symptoms tend to get worse at certain times of the day, during certain seasons, or when you're exposed to cold air, pollen or other triggers.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to recall all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For asthma, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Is asthma the most likely cause of my breathing problems?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What's the best treatment?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
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- What exactly are your symptoms?
- When did you first notice your symptoms?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Do you have breathing problems most of the time or only at certain times or in certain situations?
- Do you have allergies, such as atopic dermatitis or hay fever?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- Do allergies or asthma run in your family?
- Do you have any chronic health problems?
- Martinez FD, et al. Asthma. The Lancet. 2013;382:1360.
- What is asthma? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma. Accessed April 27, 2015.
- Diagnosis and management of asthma guideline. Bloomington, Minn.: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. https://www.icsi.org/guidelines__more/catalog_guidelines_and_more/catalog_guidelines/catalog_respiratory_guidelines/asthma/. Accessed April 27, 2015.
- Global strategy for asthma management and prevention (2015 update). Global Initiative for Asthma. http://www.ginasthma.org/documents/4. Accessed April 27, 2015.
- Expert panel report 3 (EPR-3): Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma. Bethesda, Md.: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/. Accessed Sept. 13, 2013.
- Ferri FF. Asthma. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 27, 2015.
- Asthma. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed April 27, 2015.
- Updated information on leukotriene inhibitors: Montelukast (marketed as Singulair), zafirlukast (marketed as Accolate), and zileuton (marketed as Zyflo and Zyflo CR). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/DrugSafetyInformationforHeathcareProfessionals/ucm165489.htm. Accessed April 27, 2015.