You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. Or you may start by seeing a doctor who specializes in asthma (allergist-immunologist or pulmonologist).
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance. You may need to stop taking antihistamines if you're likely to have an allergy skin test.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Note the timing of your asthma symptoms — for example, note if your symptoms are worse at work and get better when you're away from work.
- Make a list of all possible workplace lung irritants and anything else that seems to trigger your symptoms. You may want to take a look at the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for your work area, if there is one. Usually kept in a binder near your work area, this sheet lists toxic substances and irritants used on your job site. (Keep in mind, not all occupational asthma triggers are listed in the MSDS).
- Write down key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes and changes in your job or workplace.
- Bring a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you take.
- Bring a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you may remember information you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
For occupational asthma, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Is a workplace irritant a likely cause of my breathing problems or asthma flare-ups?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- How do I treat occupational asthma? Do I have to quit my job?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- Are there restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
June 12, 2014
- When did you first notice your symptoms?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Do you have breathing problems when you're away from work or only when you're on the job?
- Have your symptoms been continuous, or do they come and go?
- Have you been diagnosed with allergies or asthma?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- Do allergies and asthma run in your family?
- Are you exposed to fumes, gases, smoke, irritants, chemicals, or plant or animal substances at work? If so, how often and for how long?
- Do you work in unusual environmental conditions, such as extreme heat, cold or dryness?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Occupational asthma. Tips to remember. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/occupational-asthma.aspx. Accessed Nov. 14, 2013.
- Malo J, et al. Occupational asthma: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 14, 2013.
- Voelter-Mahlnecht SF. Occupational asthma. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2011;2:76.
- Bauer X, et al. The management of work-related asthma guidelines: A broader perspective. European Respiratory Review. 2012;21:124.
- Chan-Yeung M, et al. Occupational asthma: Definitions, epidemiology, causes and risk factors. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 14, 2013.
- Standard interpretations. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=22340. Accessed Nov. 15, 2013.
- Chan-Yeung M, et al. Occupational asthma: Management, prognosis and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 14, 2013.
- Fanta CH. An overview of asthma management. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 15, 2013.
- National Asthma Education and Prevention Program: Expert panel report III: Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma. Bethesda, Md.: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/asthgdln.htm. Accessed Nov. 15, 2013.
- Engler RJ, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine for the allergist-immunologist: Where do I start? Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2009;123:309.
- Breathing exercises and/or retraining techniques in the treatment of asthma: Comparative effectiveness. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/search-for-guides-reviews-and-reports/?productid=1252&pageaction=displayproduct. Accessed Nov. 20, 2013.
- Martin RJ. Alternative and experimental agents for the treatment of asthma. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 20, 2013.