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).
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 for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to 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 sketch of your work area, which includes any sources of possible asthma triggers, toxic substances or known lung irritants.
- 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 any major stresses or recent life changes and any changes in your job or workplace.
- Bring a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Bring a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up 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 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 kinds of 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 that you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions 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 if you don't understand something.
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:
May. 19, 2011
- 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 ever been diagnosed with allergies or asthma?
- 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, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Do allergies and asthma run in your family?
- Occupational asthma. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec05/ch057/ch057h.html?qt=occupational%20asthma&alt=sh. Accessed Jan. 28, 2011.
- Malo J. Diagnosis and clinical assessment of asthma. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Jan. 28, 2011.
- Tarlo SM. Occupational exposures and adult asthma. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America. 2008;28:563.
- Dykewicz MS. Occupational asthma: Current concepts in pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2009;123:519.
- Bardana EJ. Occupational asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2008;121:S408.
- Maestrelli P, et al. Mechanisms of occupational asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2009;123:531.
- Mapp CE, et al. Occupational asthma. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2005;172:280.
- Smith AM, et al. Management of work-related asthma. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2009;123:551.
- Balkissoon R. Asthma overview. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. 2008;35:41.
- Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma. Bethesda, Md.: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/asthgdln.pdf. Accessed Jan. 28, 2011
- 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 Feb. 5, 2011.
- Kealoha MK. What's new in alternative therapies for asthma in children? Journal of Community Health Nursing. 2009;26:198.
- 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.
- Li XM, et al. Efficacy and mechanisms of action of traditional Chinese medicines for treating asthma and allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2009;123:297.
- Ernst E. Spinal manipulation for asthma: A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Respiratory Medicine. 2009;103:1791.
- OSHA frequently asked questions. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. http://www.osha.gov/OSHA_FAQs.html. Accessed Feb. 5, 2011.