How to Consult a Doctor About Asthma

Patients with asthma may experience symptoms occasionally, frequently, or continually. Furthermore, the severity of an individual’s asthma can vary considerably, from being a mild nuisance to life-threatening. In addition, the symptoms of asthma may be severe on one occasion or well-controlled on the other not interfering with normal life. It is not uncommon to see patients having severe asthma for 2-3 years and then remain symptom-free without drugs for years together. Often the person with asthma is intolerant of exercise, experiences chronic fatigue from extra efforts of breathing, or may even experience weight loss when the illness is severe. In children, asthma is a major cause of school absenteeism.

Usual Symptoms of Asthma


During asthmatic problems, a whistling sound is heard with breathing called wheeze. Wheeze is a musical sound that is audible even to a person sitting next to the patient. After running or climbing stairs many asthmatic patients feel a wheeze which is probably indicating the presence of active disease.

Wheeze test:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Close your ears with fingers.
  3. Through the mouth exhale fully to empty your lungs. During exhalation especially during the latter part of expiration, you may feel a musical sound. This is a wheeze.


Cough is an important symptom of asthma. After exposure to the trigger factor, it is the first symptom of the onset of asthmatic attack in many patients. There is a special group of asthmatic patients who have only the sole symptom of cough. They do not have other asthmatic symptoms. Therefore if a cough persists for a period of more than 10 days without any disease, then one should get checked up for asthma.

Click here to hear the cough sound of an asthmatic patient.

Shortness of breath

At the time of attack shortness of breath is the most distressing symptom for asthmatic patients. In such a situation even trivial exertion may aggravate shortness of breath further. The patient takes a breath with great effort. The Neck muscles of the patient become tight and spaces between ribs become deep and prominent.

Chest tightness

In addition to wheeze, cough, and shortness of breath, asthmatic patients also experience chest tightness. This symptom can be intermittent, as the following exposure to a trigger, or continuous. It is also not uncommon to see patients having asthma without shortness of breath. Such patients may present with just cough or chest tightness. 

Thick spiral type expectoration

Expectoration is not a major problem in asthmatic patients, however, the majority of patients cough out typical sputum which is very viscous. It comes out like a grain of wheat or gram and when pulled it stretches in the form of a thread. During symptom-free periods also such sputum comes out with a huff or cough, though infrequently. It may indicate the presence of asthma in the asymptomatic stage.

Differentiation from other diseases

These symptoms of asthma can be found in association with other lung diseases such as bronchitis or emphysema. Therefore the mere presence of these symptoms is not diagnostic of bronchial asthma. However, the pattern of these symptoms is characteristic of asthma. These symptoms are usually intermittent and improve with therapy in asthma while in other forms of lung diseases, the symptoms are usually present all the time and respond poorly to treatment.  

An important characteristic of asthma symptoms is a nighttime flare-up. The nighttime flare of asthma is very common and can pose diagnostic problems. Usually, people with nighttime symptoms are totally normal during the day. Hence there is no, or little, evidence of asthma at the routine time of examination. The situation can perplex both the patient and physician. In the morning, these patients get up early due to asthmatic distress. After taking a cup of morning tea the distress subsides gradually.

Notice in Doctor’s waiting-room… To avoid delay, please have your symptoms ready.

Important Therapeutic Rules

It has been observed that with proper caution asthma may be controlled just short of a cure. However, many times ignorance on the part of patients may cost heavily in form of the fatal attacks, hospitalization, or sometimes death. The following set of rules are a bare minimum requirement to lead an asthma-free life.

Know your Doctor

The patient should know the name and telephone number of his regular doctor and where he can be contacted in the emergency. Remember any asthmatic patient can have a severe attack of asthma. They should also know an asthma specialist & discuss all the problems and action plans for potential problems such as what to do for sore throat, nocturnal dips, exertion-induced asthma, etc.

Know your drugs

It is extremely helpful for patients to know the names and doses of all the drugs that they are taking. It is important to know how often the drug should be taken and whether or not it is permitted to increase the number of doses take in a day. Theophylline has many interactions and hence check other drugs if you are taking theophylline.

Maintain your stock

If you need drugs to treat your asthma, it is important that an adequate supply is kept at home, even if they are only needed very occasionally. Running out of drugs is not only just inconvenient but could be very dangerous in some situations. Attacks of asthma can occur at any time and it may be difficult to purchase medicines during the night. If you are on regular daily treatment with drugs, don’t wait until you have run out before purchasing new medicines.

Give details of treatment to any strange doctor consulted

If you need medical attention from a doctor who is not familiar with your case, it is vital that you should tell this doctor as much as possible about treatment. This is especially important if you develop something unrelated to asthma, for example at the time of an accident or if you need to have an operation. If you are taking steroid drugs or has taken them regularly in the previous year, it is essential to let any new doctor know about it, particularly if you are going to need an anesthetic. This also applies to a dental operation.

Don’t stop treatment suddenly

Unless you are told by your doctor, it is unwise to stop any drug suddenly. This is particularly important for preventive drug Cromolyn and for steroid drugs because asthma attacks may return rapidly. It is quite safe to stop these drugs over a period of few days on a doctor’s advice and it may also be safe to stop steroids suddenly if they are taken only for a short time. This is a medical decision, however, and you should rely on expert advice.

Know what to do for an attack

Even if your asthma is well under control you should ask your doctor what to do if you get worse or develop a severe attack. Usually, this will mean increasing the dose and you should be sure how to do this safely and effectively. In some cases, it will mean adding standby drugs to your usual treatment for a few days.

Know when to consult a doctor

There is no doubt that some of the most difficult attacks occur in the most capable patients because they tend to continue to tolerate for too long before calling the doctor. If you are not improving over a few hours despite the recommended treatment, it is usually worth speaking to the doctor about it. This is more important in the evening or before the weekend when it may be difficult to contact him if things are really bad.

Don’t take advice from amateurs

There are great many grand ma’s tales about asthma which are best useless and at times dangerous. It is very unwise for patients to seek or take advice from anyone other than a medically qualified individual. This applies particularly to anyone offering to “cure” by means of patent medicines, faith healing, or hypnotism. There is no “cure” for asthma, only treatment to relieve it until the patient grows out of it.

How to consult a doctor or how to take maximum benefit of consultation with a doctor?

Asthma is a chronic disease and every patient has mainly two aims. Control of the disease and control of the recurrence. A doctor prescribing medicines can control your disease but its recurrence depends on you. If you take adequate care and precaution you will be able to control the recurrence. However, carelessness will cause the recurrence of the disease. These are essential aspects of treatment, you should learn from your doctor. During the consultation, however, busy doctors and forgetfulness on your part are important barriers in consultation. By proper planning, you can take the maximal benefit of consultation from your doctor. In order to take maximum benefit from a specialist doctor, please have the following information ready.

  • What are your symptoms and when these began?
  • What makes the symptoms better or worse?
  • Have you ever had eczema, urticaria, allergic cold, eye allergy, or asthma?
  • Repeated bouts of ear infection.
  • Sinus infection.
  • Loss of smell or taste.
  • How old were you when asthma started?
  • Did the disease start first with episodes of wheezing and breathlessness (asthma), daily productive cough (Bronchitis), or breathlessness on effort (emphysema)?
  • Has it improved or deteriorated since then?
  • Are you ever completely free of asthma symptoms?
  • When is asthma more severe: around Diwali/ Holi/ Winter/ Summer?
  • How many times per month,
    • Do you wake up due to asthma?
    • Have you stayed in bed?
    • Called the doctor?
  • During asthma is there any difference between,
    • Indoor/ outdoor?
    • At home/school?
  • Effect of exercise, cold air, exposure to pollution.
  • Are you in contact with animals?
  • Do you have any feathers in the bedroom?
  • Can you tolerate aspirin?
  • Smoking habit?
  • Do you or any member of the family smoke?
  • Have you ever been admitted to the hospital for asthma?
  • Do any of the parents, siblings, or children have eczema, urticaria, allergic cold, eye allergy, or asthma?
  • Medications are taken for relieving the symptoms.
  • How many weeks does an asthma spray last?
  • Reports of previous treatment or tests.

Learn from your doctor

  • When to use reliever medicine?
  • When to discontinue preventive medicine?
  • How to face the challenge of trigger exposure?
  • What to do when already exposed to trigger factors?
  • How to make adjustment of therapy with the onset of warning signals?
  • Which hospital to go to in an emergency?

You can supplement the treatment options provided to you by your doctor with regular acupuncture treatments from AB Acupuncture. The practice has been used in China and Western countries to relieve some of the symptoms associated with asthma.

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