Guest Post – Susan Schroeder, Tips For Communicating Asthma Information With Your Child’s Doctor

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inhalerWhen a child is newly diagnosed with asthma, parents may feel unsure when talking to the doctor. Oftentimes, moms and dads stay silent in the doctor’s office and choose instead to search the internet for information on asthma in children. And with the vast amount of information online, parents are likely to feel overwhelmed and worried when first researching their children’s asthma symptoms and treatment options.

Understanding how to talk to your child’s doctor about asthma can go a long way toward ensuring effective management of symptoms.

Understanding how to talk to your child’s doctor about asthma can go a long way toward ensuring effective management of symptoms. The tips below are aimed at helping parents communicate effectively with health care providers and find the best asthma resources and knowledge possible so as to create a supportive, successful environment for the child.

How to be Proactive during Office Visits

Preparing a bit before your child’s doctor visit can help parents feel more confident about answering (and asking) questions. Below is a list of questions doctors often ask regarding asthma in children. Gathering this information before your visit will make your time with the health care provider much more effective.

  • Family history of allergies and/or asthma.
  • Responses to foods and allergens. (Allergies and asthma in children share many symptoms.)
  • List of triggers for your child’s asthma, such as exercise, pollen, secondhand smoke, or pet dander.
  • If you already have an Asthma Action Plan or Asthma Management Plan, bring a copy for your health care provider.
  • List of your questions and concerns. Highlight your most pressing inquiries to ensure you get them answered. While speaking with your doctor, check your list frequently; make sure everything is getting covered. Remember, you are entirely justified in asking questions to help you understand your child’s asthma.

You must be familiar with your child’s asthma experience in order to best advocate for him or her. If you’re having a tough time coming up with details before the visit to the doctor’s office, answer these questions for your child as a way to make sure you fully understand the symptoms, side effects and other medical issues at hand.

  • What are your child’s symptoms within the last four weeks?
  • How long do your child’s symptoms typically last?
  • How well controlled/managed are your child’s symptoms?
  • Has your child been having problems with his or her asthma lately? What types of problems?
  • What medicines is your child taking? At what time of day are these medicines taken?
  • Do you feel the medicines are working well? Why or why not?
  • What side effects, if any, does your child experience when taking his or her asthma medicines?

The questions listed above are often found on an asthma checkup list. An asthma checkup list is a series of questions to help healthcare providers, parents and children communicate effectively. The Lungtropolis website offers an interactive asthma checkup checklist resulting in a printable list of questions and issues to take to your next doctor visit.

In these days of 15-minute doctor appointments, it is imperative to have all of your ducks in a row before you walk into the office. Having the answers to these questions readily available will supercharge your time with the doctor. With a bit of preparation and forethought, your visit to the doctor’s office can result in top-notch medical information and a better health outcome for your child.

Asthma Action Plan

Your doctor will give you an asthma action plan (sometimes called an asthma management plan), which is a customized worksheet that describes your child’s asthma triggers, medicines, emergency plans and range of symptoms. Oftentimes, an asthma management plan includes an “asthma zones scale” describing your child’s response levels – green (no symptoms, doing fine), yellow (some symptoms, caution) and red (acute symptoms, emergency). This scale is created for the individual patient, since asthma manifests differently in each person.

An Asthma Action Plan is a necessary tool for coordinating with schools and other institutions. Teachers, babysitters, field trip chaperones and others who watch over your child will appreciate having this background health information. It will also help you as a parent respond effectively to your child’s asthma attacks. Your doctor should work with you to create this important document – if not, speak up and ask for it.

– Susan Schroeder, MPH, MCHES, PMP, is a Research Scientist at ORCAS. She has over 12 years’ experience as an intervention designer and content developer of Web-based health programs. Ms. Schroeder is Principal Investigator on the Multimedia Asthma Self-Management Program and working on four other NIH-funded projects to develop innovative mHealth self-management solutions for physical and emotional well-being.

Lungtropolis® is an interactive web-based learning game created to help children ages 5-10 control their asthma. The site incorporates a resource for parents featuring comprehensive tips on caring for a child with asthma.