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Asthma Diagnosis and Treatment

Asthma can be diagnosed by providers who work in primary care or by specialists including allergists or pulmonologists (lung specialists).

What to Expect?

When you see our board pediatricians at Longwood Pediatrics for evaluation of asthma you will likely be asked a series of questions regarding your child’s symptoms to include what makes them worse. These are considered triggers. You may also be asked about your child’s past medical history, birth history, and family history. After taking a through history your provider will then perform a physical exam on child and may order tests to evaluate your lung function. These exams may include a peak flow measurement or a pulmonary function test. Other tests may be ordered depending on what triggers you may have reported to your provider. For example, allergy testing may be ordered if you have allergy symptoms that make your breathing worse and exercise breathing tests may be ordered if you report exercised induced symptoms.

How Asthma is Diagnosed?

A pulmonary function test called spirometry is the gold standard test used to confirm the diagnosis of asthma. During a pulmonary function test, you are coached on various breathing maneuvers involving deep inhalations and full, rapid exhalations. You may also be given an inhaled medication called a bronchodilator during this test to. A significant improvement in your lung function after the inhaled medication can confirm the present of airway reactivity or asthma. Sometime the diagnosis of asthma is made clinically based on your symptoms and response to medication therapy.

How Asthma is Treated?

Treatment for asthma can range from avoiding known triggers, allergy medications, inhaled medications, and medical procedures to reduce airway tightening. Inhaled medications are aimed at treating the inflammation within the airways and/or relaxing the smooth muscle surrounding and tightening the airways. If asthma symptoms are mild you may only need a bronchodilator or “reliever” inhaler to use only when you have asthma symptoms. If your asthma symptoms are more frequent or severe you will often be placed on maintenance (“controller”) medication therapy to be used every day routinely. Often times a combination of both are given.

Living with Asthma

 If you are diagnosed with asthma it is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to help manage your disease. With proper avoidance of triggers and the right medications you will have more control over your symptoms.

What to Expect?

Living with asthma may require daily medication to prevent symptoms and/or taking medications as needed for flare up of symptoms. It is important to avoid triggers that make your symptoms worse, as well as remain in contact with your healthcare provider, and keep up to date on your flu and pneumonia vaccines. Your healthcare provider may ask you to monitor your breathing at home to watch for any change that may suggest your asthma is not well controlled. An asthma action plan may be developed which will outline actions and medications to be taken based on your symptoms.

Indoor Air Quality

Asthma symptoms can be managed by improving your indoor air quality.