Prepare for an asthma consultation

The consultation with your healthcare provider, doctor or asthma nurse, is a good opportunity to see how your asthma is going. During the consultation you can talk about your symptoms, how to manage them and how to lower your risk of an asthma attack. It is also a good occasion to get advice on lifestyle-related matters, such as sport, healthy diet and how to quit smoking.

Even if your asthma is doing well and you have not had symptoms for some time, you need to see your healthcare provider regularly. In that case the consultation can also be a good chance to discuss about stepping down treatment.

Consultations with your healthcare provider are often not very long, and you may have many things you would like to ask, hence it is a good idea to be well prepared to make the most of your time together.

Before the asthma consultation

  • Use your daily asthma journal to write down:
    • All medications you are taking
    • Any questions that may arise between visits, so that you won’t forget what you want to ask. List your questions from the most important to the least important, this is useful if time runs out
    • Any symptoms you experience and when your symptoms bother you most (at certain times of the day, during a specific season, or when you are exposed to specific triggers)
    • Whether you have had any asthma attacks since your last consultation
    • Information on your daily life, including any major stresses or recent life changes
  • If possible, use your smartphone to record yourself having symptoms or ask someone else to do it, so that your healthcare provider will have a clear idea of what happens to you.
  • Sometimes asking another person to accompany you may be useful, especially if you tend to be nervous or if you have problems hearing or understanding.
  • Take your inhaler with you so you can check the inhaler technique.
  • Don’t forget to take your asthma action plan with you so it can be updated. If you don’t have an asthma action plan, ask your healthcare provider to help you develop one.

Asthma and mental health

Asthma attacks may resemble panic attacks, hence the belief that asthma is related to emotions or that it is “all in your head”, but this is not at all true because asthma is not a psychosomatic disorder. However, having a long-term condition, such as asthma, may increase anxiety and depression. Living with asthma can worsen your quality of life and presents a variety of emotional challenges:

  • Living in fear of an asthma attack
  • Feeling sad, since due to your symptoms you may have difficulties in doing things that are normal for other people
  • Feeling lonely when people around you, including your family and healthcare providers, do not understand or support you
  • Worrying about your future, the idea of having to go through therapy forever, and its side effects
  • Continuously feeling tired, since your asthma may prevent you from getting a good night’s rest
    Feeling anxious about what will happen to your lungs

Emotional stress may lead to asthma attacks in children and adults. Hyperventilation associated with panic attacks, laughing, crying, anger, or fear can also increase airway narrowing.

Following treatment may be more difficult if you suffer from depression or anxiety, or during stressful times, thus your medication adherence may decrease. In that case, you should consider seeking social/psychological support to maintain a positive behavioural attitude.

Take care of your emotions

  • Don’t underestimate your mental health, look for support!
  • Talk to your asthma doctor or nurse to see if your asthma is impacting your mental health.
  • Patients’ associations may provide peer support.
  • Record good and bad days in your daily asthma journal.
  • Get confident with your asthma action plan. Knowing what to do can reduce uncertainty and anxiety tied to asthma.
More #aboutasthma
Types of asthma
What is an asthma attack?
How to communicate about asthma with healthcare providers
Living with asthma as an adult
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