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Working with Your Health Care Professional

doctor and childYou do not need to accept having asthma symptoms as being normal. If you are having asthma symptoms, you and your doctor or asthma educator can work together to find ways to improve your health. But how do you make sure that you are getting the best care? Follow these tips to get the most out of your doctor or asthma educator visits.

Learn.

Find out what triggers your asthma and what you need to do to stay healthy. In fact, everyone in your family needs to know what triggers your asthma and what they can do if you need help. Learn all you can about the medications you take. Know what to do for asthma attacks.

Learn more about your own asthma.

Click here for a form designed to help you and your doctor talk about asthma.

What you should expect from your asthma management program.

Think about the goals you have for your breathing health. Below is a list of what some of those goals could be:

  • Have an Asthma Action Plan
  • No symptoms or minor symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath or chest tightness
  • Sleeping through the night without asthma symptoms
  • No time off from school or work due to asthma
  • Full participation in physical activities
  • No emergency room visits or stays in the hospital
  • Few or no side effects from asthma medications

Ask questions.

Make a list of all of the goals that are not being met, and ask questions about how you can improve.

Between visits to your health care professional, write down all of your questions so that you can bring up all of your concerns at the next visit.

Give information.

Tell your doctor or asthma educator what your symptoms have been since your last visit. Be honest and as detailed as possible. Provide peak flow meter readings, if you have them. Talk about how and when you take your medicines. Talk about problems or concerns you have about your medicines. Use the checklist of treatment goals (above) to talk about how all of your goals can be met.

State what you expect at each visit.

Tell your doctor or asthma educator what you want from the visit. You may simply want some questions answered, or maybe you might want to go over your current medications to see if you need a change. You may want to review and update your Asthma Action Plan. Try to be positive – this will help both you and your health care professional keep an open mind and improve how you relate to each other.

Follow directions.

Make an Asthma Action Plan with your health care professional and demonstrate back what the doctor wants you to do. This helps you to be sure that you know what you are supposed to do. Don't agree to do something that you do not plan to do. Unless your doctor is told that a treatment plan is hard for you, he or she will not know to make changes. If you are confused, ask the doctor to say the information in another way. Take your medicine as your doctor tells you.

Know when to see your doctor or asthma educator.

You should see your doctor at least twice a year for your asthma, even if you are feeling good. These visits will help both of you to keep track of your asthma and make changes in your asthma action plan as needed. Ask your doctor or asthma educator for guidelines about when you need to call or come in between these regular visits. Here is a sample set of guidelines the doctor may want you to follow.

You should follow your asthma action plan and see the doctor as soon as possible if:

  • Your asthma symptoms seem worse than usual or happen more often
  • You are taking your medicine more often to relieve the symptoms of asthma
  • A medicine does not seem to be working, or is making you feel worse

You should get help right away if:

  • Your asthma keeps getting worse even after taking your medicine and following your action plan
  • Your peak flow reading falls into the red zone
  • Your lips or fingernails turn blue
  • Your breathing is rapid and you can only talk in single words

Keep your doctor's visit.

Have a way to remind yourself to keep your doctor's visit. Put a note on the refrigerator, your dresser, or some other place. If you cannot keep your visit, call and change it. With time, you and your doctor will find the treatment that works best for you. Remember asthma symptoms can change over time. It's important to see your doctor or asthma educator at least twice every year for your routine asthma care (this doesn't include visits to the doctor when your asthma is not in control).

Adapted from the National Institutes of Health pamphlet: Your Asthma Can Be Controlled: Expect Nothing Less, NIH Publication No. 92-2664