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To Call or Not to Call

To Call or Not to Call

Something a lot of asthmatics struggle with is knowing when to call your doctor. When your asthma symptoms are starting to act up or when you aren’t sure about your asthma action plan. We aren’t meant to be able to handle our disease on our own. We need the support and help from others, including our doctors. Having a good open relationship with your medical team is very important. Many doctors now have an option to send an email for questions as well as a dedicated nurse line you can call for medical advice.

Follow your asthma action plan

If you don’t have an asthma action plan definitely talk to your doctor the next time you have an appointment. An asthma action plan is a piece of paper that contains your asthma-specific medications, peak flow zones based on your personal best number (if you track your peak flow), what medications/dosages to add when your asthma starts to act up and when to call your doctor directly &/or seek immediate emergency attention at the closest hospital. What’s so great about asthma action plans is that they tell you exactly what to do and when to do it when it comes to your asthma.

I don’t want to be a bother

Something I have personally struggled with on occasion in the past is actually making the call or composing the email to my doctor when I have a question or need some medical advice. I used to have this internal struggle where I don’t want to be a bother to my doctor. I would think to myself “surely he has other pressing patients who are sicker than me” and I would only be taking up their time when they should be spending it with other patients. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with my doctor about my reasoning for hesitating to call/email that he assured me that he never ever wants me to feel that way and to not wait to ever call or email him no matter how small or seemingly insignificant my issue may seem.

Don’t wait

What it comes down to is, that the moment you are questioning whether or not to call your doctor when you asthma is flaring up, that is the time to absolutely call (or email.) If you can’t get through to your doctor’s office, consider going to urgent care or the emergency room. Being a respiratory therapist and working in the ER, I would absolutely rather see an asthmatic in mild distress who is unsure of if they made the right call to come in than one who waited too long and is now facing a critical respiratory crisis. While it sounds a bit harsh to say, your doctor is in business because of the patients he or she sees. Asthma can get very bad very fast and waiting can be detrimental. Your doctor might be able to help troubleshoot over the phone or he/she may make the decision to have you come into their office the same day or next or depending on the circumstances, go to the emergency room. Besides asthma troubles, don’t ever hesitate to reach out to your healthcare team if you have any medical questions or concerns. Don’t wait.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • TracyLee
    4 months ago

    FeelingShy, the air was so bad this summer from wildfire smoke that I couldn’t keep it out of the house. I was scared about how much I coughed. Breathing hurt even staying inside.

    My asthma is rated as mild. I knew the clinic would be busy with people who were much worse off than me. I used the clinic’s online message system to let them know I didn’t feel good. I weote to ask if they would call me when they had time. I told them it wasn’t an emergency. And then I waited. And I waited some more. I got a call SEVEN days after I sent the message. This is what I learned:

    Yes, they were extremely busy. Even when they are not as busy, no one checks messages daily. I should have called. (I wish their website explained this. I felt like a child being scolded by a parent.)

    They told me I should always call when I feel worse or when my peak flow meter measurement is down. Even a person who has mild asthma can develop serious problems and end up in the hospital.

    Has someone in the office TOLD you that you are calling too often? If not, please pretend you are FeelingBrave and tell them about your worry. If they think you are too anxious, they will be able to give you advice or a referral to deal with the anxiety. And wouldn’t that be nice?

  • FeelingShy
    4 months ago

    Thank you, TracyLee. No, no one has ever said I call too often. He thinks I minimize and encourages calling.

  • TracyLee
    4 months ago

    That’s great! I’m glad your doctor said that. I hope you won’t hesitate to call when you start thinking about it next time. Even if they don’t have any great solutions to make you feel better right away, I know my clinic makes notes on the calls and it gives the doctor a better idea of how I am doing. He asks me for details during my next appointment.

    Happy Holidays.

  • FeelingShy
    4 months ago

    Thank you for this. I definitely wrestle with this. I worry that if I call too often, I won’t be taken seriously when I really need help.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi FeelingShy and thanks for your post. I’m a bit puzzled – if when you call, you actually need help, then you should have no concerns. If, on the other hand, you feel you are calling too often (perhaps you don’t need the help each time you call…), then perhaps you should re-evaluate when it is that you’re calling. What do you think? Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi again FeelingShy and thanks for this recent post and question, too. You have to be the best judge (for yourself) referring to ‘how bad is bad enough…?’ You can base it on your own past experience (what has been ‘bad enough’ for you to call in the past when you actually did call, or ‘felt’ you should have called, but did not). Or, you can assess yourself more objectively with a peak flow meter. You can collaborate with your physician as to what flow rate (for you) should prompt you to call. Mostly, this is up to you (or each one of us that finds ourselves questioning ‘when to call?’).
    I hope this brief reply is helpful for you.
    Leon (site moderator)

  • FeelingShy
    4 months ago

    The question is always: how bad is bad enough to call? How bad should I just handle and not report?

  • krishwaecosse
    4 months ago

    You’ve hit the nail on the head by saying that when you’re contemplating contacting the doctors then you reaĺly should. Doesn’t mean you won’t still feel unsure about asking for help (I’ve been in the middle of an acute asthma attack and still questioned whether I really should call) but it is that point where you think ‘maybe I should….’ that actually you reaĺlydo need to

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi krishwaecosse – I agree with Sam (below). You have the right mind set if you already understand that if you’re ‘thinking’ about calling, you probably should make the call. This is especially true if you’re working with a physician with whom you have that relationship. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • SamuelTaylor moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi Krishwaecosse,

    I’m glad the article resonated with you. Of course, many of us are reluctant to search for medical assistance because it can be a less than pleasant experience sometimes. However, reaching out is always the best option if it’s being considered. I hope you’re doing well and you won’t have that thought anytime soon. Always wishing you the best.

    -Samuel, Asthma.net Team

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