OverviewAsthma doesn’t have to hold you back. Just ask Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Not only did the Olympian win three gold medals between 1988 and 1992, she also set five world records and was named the greatest female athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated. And she did it all while suffering with asthma. If you suspect you may have asthma, don’t let it keep you from your goals. And don’t feel like you have to face it alone. Teaming up with an allergist is the secret to successfully managing your condition. An allergist can evaluate your symptoms, make or confirm an asthma diagnosis and help you create a plan to manage your condition so you can live life to the fullest. Together, you and your allergist can form your own world-class team!
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Asthma Life Quality (LQ) TestBefore you go to your allergist appointment, consider completing this Asthma Life Quality (LQ) Test. This 20-question test can be a valuable tool for giving your allergist an accurate picture of your asthma and the ways it’s affecting you. With this information, you can work together and start to create an asthma action plan that truly makes a difference. The 20 yes-or-no questions on the LQ Test cover issues such as:
- When I walk, or do simple chores, I have trouble breathing or I cough.
- When I catch a cold, it often goes to my chest.
- My asthma medicine doesn’t control my asthma.
Your First AppointmentYour first step toward relief is to schedule an appointment with an allergist to receive a proper diagnosis. Your allergist will evaluate several things before making an asthma diagnosis, and it’s nice to know what to expect. At your first appointment, one of your allergist’s goals will be to learn a little bit more about you and your symptoms: Do you have a family history of asthma? Is there a particular time of day or year that your symptoms tend to flare? Have you tried medications? From there, the allergist may also try to get a sense of factors in your day-to-day life that could be sparking your symptoms: Do you live with a pet? Do you tend to cough more in cold weather? Do you live with someone who smokes? Your allergist will then conduct a physical exam of your chest, eyes, ears, nose and throat. Your allergist will look for signs of congestion, wheezing and skin rashes, which can help determine if your asthma symptoms are being triggered by an underlying allergy.
Asthma TestingOne of the most common ways to test for asthma is to use a spirometer – a small instrument that measures the amount of air you can breathe in and out. It’s a simple, safe test that helps measure how well your lungs are working. You’ll be asked to breathe in until your lungs are full. You’ll then blow the air out into a hollow tube as hard and as fast as possible. The tube is attached to a device that measures how much air you’re able to hold in your lungs and detects whether anything is obstructing your airways. Once you’ve taken the test once or twice, your allergist may have you use an inhaler. You will then blow into the spirometer again to determine whether the inhaler medication improved your lung function. The allergist may also suggest a skin test, blood test or chest X-ray. These tests give your allergist more information to work with to help you get your asthma under control.
Asthma DiagnosisYour allergist will look at your symptoms and family history, as well as the results of your physical exam and asthma testing, to determine if you have asthma. There are many different types of asthma, and each type can range from mild to moderate to severe. If you receive an asthma diagnosis, don’t worry: Your allergist can work with you to build a plan to control your symptoms and live the life you want. Asthma is not a disability. With the right treatment, there’s no reason you can’t live life exactly as you would without this condition – sports, hiking, playing with your kids. You can have it all, as long as you get diagnosed and keep up with your treatment.
The treatment plan developed by your allergist will address all your symptoms and will likely include at least one of the following:
- Identifying and then avoiding the specific triggers (such as tobacco smoke or pet dander) that bring on your symptoms
- Medication, either over-the-counter or prescription
- Allergy immunotherapy (a highly effective preventive treatment that can help the immune system become less sensitive to triggers such as pollen, pet fur and house dust)