How to Make the Most of Your Appointment with a Healthcare Provider

May 4, 2020

Managing asthma can be frustrating. You have to identify—and then avoid—whatever triggers your symptoms, take your medicine as prescribed, and constantly stay on the lookout to try to keep your symptoms under control, especially when you get a cold or a cough. Usually, people with asthma rely on their primary care providers for help, but those appointments are notoriously brief. So, how can you make the most of your time and be sure you’re controlling your asthma as easily as possible?

Keep reading.

One of the first steps is learning what the latest research suggests for asthma management, so that you can better understand what questions to ask and feel more empowered about taking control of your health. To save you time, we’ve reviewed scientific papers and outlined relevant topics you may want to discuss with your healthcare provider. 

What You Need to Know About Asthma Management

Studies have found that many primary care providers fall short of identifying the allergic triggers that may be causing a patient’s symptoms,1-2 something that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes as an essential part of good asthma care.3

Why does this matter? We’re glad you asked.

Evidence shows that if patients have an accurate picture of the triggers that cause their symptoms and take steps to avoid them, it can keep them out the emergency room and hospital.4-5 Asthma exacerbations can be triggered by allergens, such as dust mites, pets, and mold, or non-allergen irritants, such as cigarette smoke. So it makes sense that reducing exposure to these triggers is one of the keys to reducing asthma symptoms.6

 You might think, “But wait! I already know my asthma triggers based off my symptom history.” Bonus points for taking a proactive approach to your symptom history, but be aware that it isn’t as accurate as pairing this information with objective data, such as diagnostic testing.7 That’s because it’s not uncommon for diagnostic testing to reveal triggers a person might not expect. For example, you might think you are allergic to your dog, but maybe what you are really allergic to is the grass that the dog spends all day laying on. It’s better to know for sure, so you can make any necessary adjustments (and avoid the unnecessary ones, like rehoming Spot). 

Healthcare providers can use a variety of tests to help diagnose what is contributing to someone’s asthma symptoms. One option is called specific IgE testing, either in the form of a skin prick test or a blood test. The CDC recommends allergen testing for children and adults who are prescribed a daily asthma medication.3

Ask your healthcare provider to order a specific IgE blood test or skin prick test. After all, knowing your triggers can significantly improve the way you manage your symptoms, and your doctor has a vested interest in helping you make healthy choices. For example, if you find out that your asthma is triggered by dust mites, you may want to invest in dust mite covers for your bed and pillows. If it’s triggered by pollen, you may want to keep your windows closed when pollen counts are high. Once your triggers are identified, simple actions like these can make a big difference—which makes sense, because you can manage asthma better if you understand what causes it.4,6  

To sum it up, an effective part of asthma care starts with identifying the specific triggers that are causing your symptoms. Talking to your primary care provider about allergen testing is critical—and the good news is: It works! Another recent survey of healthcare providers found that 83 percent of primary care providers and 92 percent of allergists said that they will order a specific IgE blood test if requested to do so by a patient and ordering the test is medically responsible.8

Want to Learn More? 

Most of the studies we referenced in this post are all available for free online, and while you don't need a PhD to access them, they are designed for healthcare providers—don’t say we didn't warn you! Click on any of the links below to download some light summer reading:

Tools for Understanding Allergies


Track allergy symptoms and prepare for a visit with a healthcare provider.

Learn about specific allergens, including common symptoms, management, and relief. 

Are you a healthcare provider? Get comprehensive information on hundreds of whole allergens and allergen components.

  1. Cloutier, Michelle M, et al. Clinician Agreement, Self-Efficacy, and Adherence with the Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. In Practice, 2018; 6(3): 886-894.
  2. Yawn, Barbara P, et al. Adherence to Asthma Guidelines in Children, Tweens, and Adults in Primary Care Settings: A Practice-Based Network Assessment. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2016; 91(4): 411-421.
  3. Allergy Testing for Persons with Asthma Frequently Asked Questions.  Centers for Disease Control.
  4. Brock JP, Nussbaum E, Morphew TL, et al.  SN Comprehensive Clinical Medicine. 2019; 1: 328-333.
  5. Shrouds R. In Vitro Serum Specific-IgE Testing Alone Reduces Healthcare Utlization and Costs in South Carolina Medicaid-enrolled Members with Asthma.
  6. Matsui, EC, Abramson SL, Sandel MT.  Indoor Environmental Control Practices and Asthma Management.  American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Pediatrics 2016; 138.
  7. Smith DM, Hogger C, Lallemant C. Is Structured Allergy History Sufficient When Assessing patients with Asthma and Rhinitis in General Practice? J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009; 123: 646-50.
  8. 2019 Thermo Fisher Internal survey of 456 primary care providers and 159 allergists.