Newly Diagnosed – Now What?
It can be quite scary to get an official asthma diagnosis. You more than likely have questions. Not sure where to start, or what to do next? Here’s a short list to help get you started.
Carry a small notebook with you or keep a digital note on your smart phone and write down any questions that pop into your head over the next couple weeks. There is no such thing as a stupid question and never feel silly or uncomfortable asking, we have heard it all. At your next appointment with your doctor take that list of questions and concerns with you. I’ve had asthma for over 25 years as well as being a respiratory therapist for well over a decade and I still write things down that I want to discuss with my doctor. Once you are in the room with the doctor, it’s so easy to forget things and then kick yourself later after you have left and wished you would have remembered while still in the exam room. Another thing to check out is to ask if your doctors office has an email address set up for the doctor where patients can ask questions via email if it is a pressing matter that cannot wait until your next visit. My doctors office has this feature and it definitely comes in handy when I have a question but don’t really need to make an office visit for just a quick question.
Get an action plan
Asthma action plans are a must for all asthmatics no matter what your severity is. An asthma action plan is just that- a plan to follow. Your doctor is the one who helps write it. It will tell you exactly what steps to take both when your asthma is under control (your daily meds etc) as well as what to do when your asthma is flaring up and when to call your doctor and/or seek medical attention. I am highly trained in all things respiratory/lung related and I still will find myself referring to my action plan when my asthma is flaring up. It takes the guess work out of managing your asthma. If you do not have an action plan make it a point ask for one at your next visit. Also, it is not uncommon for an action plan to change over time if your asthma changes and either gets better or worse.
Track your peak flow
Ask your doctor for a peak flow meter. Often times they have them to hand out, and if not they are pretty cheap to purchase online. Peak flows are a fantastic tool to help track your asthma. Often times you will see your peak flow start to trend downward before you have any asthma symptoms. Once you figure out your personal best number (which is the highest peak flow reading you have ever gotten) you can plug in the red, yellow, and green zones on your asthma action plan with the help of your doctor.
Finding out what your asthma triggers are is key to helping control the disease. We all have different things that set our asthma off. Asthma is not a one size fits all disease. What sets my asthma off might have no effect on you if that makes sense. For a newly diagnosed asthmatic, figuring out your triggers can be a huge source of frustration. If you suspect your asthma is mostly allergy based, talk with your doctor about having allergy testing done. I would highly recommend keeping an asthma journal where you can track your symptoms, peak flows and triggers until you get the hang of it and know what to avoid.
Learn your medications
Read up on the medications that are prescribed for you. Know which is your reliever (often albuterol) as well as any controller medications/inhalers you are on. Again, any questions about your medications should be directed to your doctor.
Find asthma friends
Finding others with asthma is super important no matter how newly diagnosed you are. Having a few (or a group) of friends who share this disease has helped me so much. Until a person has asthma themselves they can only speculate what it really feels like. Asthma friends just “get it.” There are many groups and forums online to connect.