Healthcare Management|Working With Your Doctor|Your Health Resources

Questions to Ask When My Asthma Doesn’t Get Better

Last Updated April 2022 | This article was created by editorial staff and reviewed by Deepak S. Patel, MD, FAAFP, FACSM

Asthma is a medical condition. It can be difficult to manage. Your efforts to treat don’t always work. This is especially true when a “trigger” causes your asthma to flare up. This may send you back to the doctor or the emergency room. If this sounds like you, don’t be discouraged. Below are common questions to ask yourself about what works and what doesn’t. Talk to your doctor to help you get back on track.

Is it really asthma?

Other illnesses can act like asthma. If your treatments aren’t working, maybe you don’t have asthma. Your doctor may want to do other exams or tests to confirm.

Is it something in my environment?

Some people who have asthma are allergic to things in their environment. These things can trigger their asthma. This could be at home, work, or school. If you know what it is, try to remove or avoid those things. This can help your asthma medicine work better. Common triggers of an asthma attack are:

  • dust mites
  • pet dander
  • mold
  • pollen
  • tobacco smoke
  • certain pollutants
  • cold, dry air
  • viral infection
  • exercise

Your doctor can do skin or blood tests to figure out your triggers. Avoid these triggers to relieve your asthma symptoms and help your lungs work better. It might even reduce the amount of medicine you have to take. Talk with your doctor about ways to remove triggers from your environment.

Is it something in my workplace?

Some adults who have asthma are sensitive to something in their workplace. You might suspect this if your asthma flares up when you’re at work. Another clue is if some of your coworkers also have asthma symptoms. Perhaps your asthma is bad at work, but fine on weekends or vacations. Your doctor can help determine trigger. When you find out what that is, try to remove or avoid it.

Am I using my inhaler correctly?

It is important to use an inhaler correctly. If you don’t, you are not getting enough medicine into your lungs. Use a device called a spacer with your inhaler. This will help direct the medicine deeper into your lungs. Your doctor can prescribe a spacer and show you how to use it.

Am I taking my medicine correctly?

In order for your medicine to work, you must follow your doctor’s instructions. Many people who have asthma don’t follow their doctor’s orders. Take your medicine as prescribed. It will help prevent trips to the hospital and even asthma death.

Do I need to change medicines?

Medicines are available to help treat asthma symptoms. Most people who have asthma need at least two types of medicine. A preventive (“controller”) medicine keeps your lungs from becoming inflamed. A quick-relief (“rescue”) medicine helps your symptoms if the first one doesn’t work. If the medicines you take now aren’t helping, others may work. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) might help if your asthma is related to allergies.

Path to improved well being

Your doctor will give you a peak flow meter to monitor your asthma. Use it regularly. Keep a log of your results. The meter is a plastic tube that you blow into several times a day. It checks how well your lungs are working. The results tell you when you need to take extra medicine or call your doctor.

Things to consider

A lot of people who have asthma don’t know enough about their condition. Learn as much as you can from your doctor and other medical resources. Discuss all your asthma questions and concerns. You should know what type of asthma you have.

Know how to manage your asthma. Learn how to recognize if your asthma is getting worse. Signs include symptoms at night, a drop in your peak flow, or the need to use your rescue medicine more often. Talk to your doctor if you think your asthma is getting worse.

Be aware of the warning signs of an asthma attack, which include:

  • Coughing or wheezing.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Peak flow 50% to 80% of your personal best.

Go to the nearest emergency room if your peak flow drops below 50% or if your symptoms don’t respond to medicine.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Will I outgrow my asthma or is it life-long?
  • What is the best way to manage my asthma?
  • How can I avoid asthma attacks?
  • What if I can’t change my workplace
  • What should I do in an emergency?
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