Got Asthma? Ask Your Doctor These Questions
(BlackDoctor.org) — While the doctor usually asks the questions during an exam, you can respectfully and proactively take charge, too. In fact, asking the right questions can make a big difference in the way you manage your asthma. Your health is important both to you and to your doctor, so don’t hesitate to inquire about any topic you feel is relevant to your condition, whether it’s a question about your asthma diagnosis, something regarding your asthma medication, curiosity about complementary or alternative therapies for asthma, or concern about your emotional health, your financial health, or any other lifestyle matter.
Engaging in a dialogue with your doctor will help educate you about asthma and the asthma treatment options available to you, and it’ll give your doctor a better sense of who you are and how asthma is affecting your health and your life. With the lines of communication open, you and your doctor will be able to develop the best treatment plan for your individual needs.
But remember, your time with your doctor is limited, so be sure to arrive at your appointment prepared and ready to discuss asthma and the questions that are important to you. Start by:
Researching asthma. It’s a good idea to get a better understanding of asthma before your appointment. Through research, you may even be able to answer some of your own questions. Visit Everyday Health’s Asthma Center, Revolution Health’s Asthma Center, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the American Lung Association, and MedlinePlus.
Strategizing. Your family doctor may not be able to answer all your questions about asthma; some may be better addressed by a clinician who specializes in treating people with asthma. Discuss this with your doctor, make a plan for addressing your concerns, and follow up with a visit to a specialist, as directed by your doctor. You can also do additional research of your own.
Keeping records. Consider keeping a journal about your asthma between visits to the doctor, and share any relevant information with your doctor, such as frequency of symptoms and how well your medications are working. Additionally, taking notes during your appointments will help you remember important details after your visit. Alternatively, you may consider bringing a recording device or inviting someone to accompany you and take notes.
General Asthma Questions
Asthma is a chronic disease that can cause wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. If you think you might have asthma, but you haven’t yet been formally diagnosed, talk to your doctor about arranging an evaluation.
Once you have a formal diagnosis, your doctor will give you information about the condition and recommend a course of treatment. You may have questions or concerns about your diagnosis and how asthma will affect your health and your life. Communicate to your doctor the things that are most important to you that may be affected by your asthma, and find out how to manage the disease so that it doesn’t interfere with your favorite activities. Consider asking your doctor the following questions:
- With asthma, will it still be possible to participate in my favorite activities?
- What is the best asthma treatment for me?
- Can asthma be cured?
- Does asthma change with age? Do people ever outgrow it?
- How will asthma affect me over the long term?
- What should I expect as a result of treatment? Will my symptoms go away?
Your doctor may prescribe medication to ease your asthma symptoms and reduce your risk of asthma attacks. Common asthma treatments include quick-acting bronchodilators (inhalers) that contain albuterol; Combivent inhalers, which contain both albuterol and ipratropium; inhaled or oral corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation; and nebulizers, which contain the same medications as inhalers but deliver it as a fine mist for people who have severe difficulty breathing. It is important to understand the medication your doctor is prescribing. Ask your doctor about it, read the insert the pharmacy includes with your prescription, and take the medication as directed by your physician. Knowing how your asthma medication is supposed to work will help you evaluate its effectiveness and whether it’s the right medication for you. Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor about asthma medications:
- Do I need medication, or can I be treated effectively without it?
- How often and for how long will I need to take this medication?
- Is there medication that I can take on an as-needed basis?
- What type of drug are you prescribing for me, and how does it work?
- Where can I get more information about this drug?
- How will the medication make me feel, and how will I know if it’s working?
- When can I expect to notice improvements in how I feel?
- How do asthma inhalers work? How and when should I use one?
- What are the risks if I don’t take my medication as directed, or if I forget to take it?
- How has this medication been tested? Are there any recent clinical studies on it?
- What should I do if I experience any side effects? Are there any that may require me to call a doctor? Are there any that may require me to stop taking the medication immediately?
- Is this drug habit-forming?
- Can I take this on an empty stomach, or should it be taken with food?
- Could this medication interact with other medication I’m taking?
- Are there any foods, drinks (such as alcohol), vitamins, herbal supplements, or over-the-counter drugs that I should avoid while taking this medication?
- Can other conditions interfere with or be affected by my medication? What if I have a family history of heart disease?
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
There are a number of complementary and alternative treatments that may help you reduce and control your asthma symptoms. You may consider acupuncture; biofeedback or relaxation techniques; chiropractic spinal manipulation or massage therapy; yoga; art or music therapy; hypnosis; or herbal supplements. Ask your doctor if any of these options might be beneficial for you:
- Are there any complementary or alternative therapies I should consider?
- Could acupuncture benefit my condition?
- Are chiropractic or massage therapies effective for asthma?
- What is biofeedback (also known as neurofeedback), and is it right for me? Whom should I see for an evaluation?
- Do any clinical trials or research support these complementary or alternative therapies?
- Do you recommend any herbs or other natural supplements?
In addition to affecting your lungs and breathing capacity, asthma can take a toll on your emotional health. Because it’s a chronic condition, asthma can cause depression, frustration, and anger. Your doctor can help you find ways to cope with the emotional stress of asthma, manage your symptoms, and handle the impact asthma is having on your daily activities. Find out what you can do to improve your emotional health while living with asthma:
- Should I seek emotional support from a support group or a therapist?
- What should I do if I feel that my asthma attacks are also triggering panic attacks?
- Can stress affect my asthma?
- How should I explain my condition to my spouse, family, and friends? What, if anything, should I say to my boss and co-workers?
- What should I do if I think my breathing problems may be work-related? How do I find out for sure, and how should I handle this?
Health and Lifestyle Concerns
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to keep yourself in good shape. Participating in a physical fitness regimen, following a balanced diet, getting adequate rest and sleep, quitting smoking, moderating your alcohol consumption, and avoiding substance abuse of any kind can all contribute to your overall health. Check with your doctor to see whether you need to make any lifestyle changes or whether there’s anything he or she recommends that you do at home, work, or school to help you better manage your asthma.
- What lifestyle changes can I make to better manage my asthma and reduce my risk of an attack?
- How can I control my asthma so that it won’t interfere with my favorite activities?
- How might pregnancy affect or be affected by my asthma?
- Do I need to make any changes in diet or exercise?
- Could yoga help relieve my asthma symptoms?
- Can drinking alcohol, smoking, or using drugs affect my condition?
- Should I make any special accommodations for school, home, or my work?
- Are there asthma triggers in my environment that I should try to avoid?
- Could my pet be triggering my asthma?
- Should I have an asthma action or care plan, in case I have an attack? Can you work with me to develop one?
- Can you recommend any good books, magazines, organizations, or online resources that focus on asthma?
The costs associated with your asthma treatment will have an effect on your finances. It’s crucial to find ways to balance your physical health with your financial health. Ask your doctor about ways in which you may be able to offset the cost of your treatment.
- Will my medication be covered by my health insurance plan?
- About how much will my medication cost?
- Is there a generic version of the medication that would be more affordable? If not, are there other, equally effective medications that are available as generics?
- Do you have any samples or discount coupons for my prescription?
- If I choose a complementary or alternative therapy, is it likely to be covered by my insurance? If not, what kind of out-of-pocket costs can I expect?