Scheduled office visits with healthcare providers are an important part of asthma care. Your visits should include review of your asthma control, Asthma Action Plan, triggers, and medicines. Of course, if you don’t feel well, call your healthcare provider’s office for an appointment in between your scheduled visits.
How often you should see your provider depends on how well your asthma is controlled. Control means:
Little use of quick-relief or rescue medicines
Taking asthma medicines with little or no side effects
Being able to take part in daily activities
Preventing asthma flare-ups
Not needing emergency room or hospital care
Your healthcare provider will figure out how well your asthma is controlled by examining you. He or she may check how well your lungs are working with spirometry testing. Your healthcare provider will ask you how asthma is affecting your daily activities. This is a very important part of checking asthma control. If you have a peak flow meter, keep track of your scores and bring them to your healthcare provider. You should also know for yourself where your green (good control), yellow (some symptoms start), and red zone areas (significant asthma symptoms) are. He or she might ask you questions about:
Nighttime Sleep. How many times do your asthma symptoms wake you up at night when you are trying to sleep?
Rescue or quick-relief medicine. How many times each day do you use these medicines?
Work or school. Have you missed work or school because of asthma?
Daily activities. Are there things you can’t do because of asthma?
Exercise and activity. Are you able to exercise or be physically active?
Outdoors. Does asthma cause you to stay indoors at times?
Social events. Do you miss parties or other events because of your asthma?
Asthma Action Plan. Your provider will want to review your plan on each visit.
Take a copy of your Asthma Action Plan with you to each visit. That way you can review it with your health care provider and write down any changes. It is a good idea to have blank Asthma Action Plan forms so you can rewrite your plan if there are any changes. Click here for a sample Asthma Action Plan to fill out.
You should also review how you are monitoring your symptoms. This is done by either closely watching for small changes in symptoms or by peak flow meter readings. If you need help with either method, make sure you ask during your visit.
Talk with your healthcare provider about your triggers and how to avoid them. If you are having trouble identifying your triggers or figuring out how to lessen contact with them, ask your healthcare provider.
If you have allergies, an allergist may be able to help. Talk with your healthcare provider or go to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. You can search for an allergist in your area.
Two triggers that are important for all people with asthma to avoid are tobacco smoke and air pollution.
If you smoke, work with your healthcare provider to quit. Counseling or medicine can help. Ask about special programs in your area. Or look for programs on the Internet. For example, try smokefree.gov. Stay away from secondhand smoke. Don’t allow smoking in your home or car. And try to avoid places where smoking is allowed. For some people, third-hand smoke (smoke on clothes and other materials) can also trigger asthma.
Watch the air quality in your area. If it is poor, try to stay inside as much as possible. Check your local news or try the Environmental Protection Agency.
Make sure you know exactly how and when to use your medicines. This includes both long-term or controller and quick-relief or rescue medicines. Be sure to ask any questions you have about how to use them or about side effects.
One of the best ways to check if you are using an inhaler correctly is to actually use it in front of your healthcare provider, nurse, respiratory therapist, or pharmacist. That way, he or she can see exactly how you use it and, if needed, show you the correct way.
Make sure you always have enough medicine. Ask for refills during your office visit.
If you travel, take an extra supply of medicines in case your return is delayed.