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Diagnosing and Treating Asthma

Posted on May 1, 2018 by Dawn Mangine

Asthma is a disease that affects a person’s lungs, causing wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and night-time or early morning coughing. One in 13 people has asthma.

Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and by managing environmental triggers. Triggers can vary from patient to patient, and some patients will be more severely affected by triggers than others. Some common asthma triggers include:

  • Tobacco smoke, either directly via smoking, or via second hand smoke
  • Dust mites, small bugs that are in almost any home
  • Outdoor air pollution, from factories, cars, even smoke from burning wood or grass
  • Cockroach allergen
  • Pets with fur
  • Mold, which can result from high humidity

Questions To Ask about Asthma

Asthma can be difficult to diagnose, especially in children under the age of 5. Here are some questions healthcare providers should learn to ask to determine if a patient has asthma, and if they are treating it effectively.

1. Do you cough a lot, especially at night or early in the morning? Do you have wheezing or chest tightness after exercise? At a certain point, a healthcare provider will test a patient’s breathing with a spirometer, which evaluates how well his or her lungs are working.

2. Do you have asthma medication, and are you using it correctly? Asthma medications vary from quick-acting broncholdilators to corticosteroid inhalers for longer-term treatment. An informational chart can help providers and patients determine the correct treatment option and if it’s being used correctly.

3. How are you managing your asthma? A healthcare provider should work with a patient to determine an asthma action plan, which should include medications the patient is prescribed, known asthma triggers, and symptoms or peak flow measurements that indicate worsening asthma or the need for urgent medical attention.

4. How do you reduce your exposure to asthma triggers? This can help patients determine their triggers and plan to avoid them so as not to incur flare-ups, or asthma attacks. Patients will have to determine if there are factors at home or work that are contributing to their disease, and plan accordingly to deal with them.

5. Have you tried to improve your condition in other ways? Along with avoiding triggers and taking medications, there are other ways to treat asthma. Educational classes, types of exercise, dietary adjustments, and properly vaccinating can improve lung function and quality of life for asthma patients.


CDC, Asthma Resources

American Lung Association, Asthma

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