If you're living with allergic asthma, you know what a physical and emotional rollercoaster ride it can feel like. The best way to smooth out the ups and downs is by working with your healthcare professional to identify the precise triggers of your asthma symptoms. Once these are identified, you can take the appropriate steps toward effective treatment.
To identify your asthma triggers, your doctor will most likely collect your medical history, perform a physical exam, and perform an allergy skin test that will also help determine how sensitive you are to a specific allergen.
If you're like the majority of people with asthma, your symptoms are triggered by an allergic component that may require special attention. Allergic asthma is triggered by year-round allergens in the air, such as cockroaches, dust mites, mold, or pet dander.
Talking with your healthcare professional about treatments specifically for allergic asthma can offer the opportunity to develop a personalized treatment plan or to fine tune one that already exists.
A good place to start the conversation is by describing your asthma symptoms. Choose your words carefully, however. They can greatly affect your healthcare professional's assessment of your health and the subsequent course of treatment he or she recommends. Blood tests, skin tests, and readings from a peak flow meter all provide valuable information, but it's your symptoms that point the healthcare professional in the right direction.
In fact, you should review your symptoms before you even enter your healthcare professional's waiting room. For example, make sure you know how you would answer the following questions:
- What exactly are my symptoms? Have they changed recently?
- When do I find myself having them? How long do they last?
- Do they prevent me from doing normal activities like sleeping, housework, or yard work, going to work/school?
By answering these questions to yourself, you'll be able to assess how well your symptoms are controlled; then, when the time comes to discuss your treatment plan, you will be able to give the healthcare professional information that has been thoroughly thought out.
In addition to answering questions about your asthma symptoms, you'll most likely be asked to describe your living conditions. For example, your healthcare professional may want to know about your home's location, any surrounding plant life, the type of heating system you have, the type of pillow you use, the type of fabric on your furniture, and so on. Details like these provide valuable clues into the cause of your symptoms and suggest possible ways to reduce your exposure to an offending allergen.
The accuracy of the information you provide is essential to finding the right treatment to target the inflammation involved in allergic reactions. The same goes for your commitment to the treatment regimen you and your healthcare professional develop. Remember, you are the most important part of your treatment plan. Your health depends on how seriously you take your treatment plan to heart.
SOURCE: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care. First created 2004; most recently updated 2005.
© Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) Editorial Board