Q: What are some specific benefits of using telehealth for people with asthma and allergies?

Tania Elliott, MD: Think of a telehealth consultation as a first step to an initial asthma or allergy assessment. When you’re at an appointment with an allergist, you may do a pulmonary function test, listen to the heart and lungs and give a thorough history of your symptoms.

Oftentimes you may also discuss environmental triggers that may be going on in the home. With a video visit, allergists can actually see what’s going on in the home.

When on a telehealth consultation, I actually have the patient turn the camera around (if they are using a smartphone or tablet) and we do a video tour of the home so I can identify whether or not there may be a trigger – mold, for example – contributing to symptoms or asthma flares.

Clinical studies have shown that home nursing visits benefit people with asthma. So you can consider telehealth as sort of a 21st Century home visit for patients and doctors can leverage technology to do so.

Another way telehealth can provide a benefit is through the use of peripheral devices. Patients can now purchase a virtual stethoscope and an otoscope at home electronics stores and then initiate a visit with a physician, who can effectively listen to and evaluate their heart and lung.

Q: Should patients use telehealth if symptoms are severe?

Dr. Elliott: If you are experiencing severe asthma or allergy symptoms, you should immediately go to the emergency department or urgent care.

If you are on the fence and unsure whether to go to the emergency department or urgent care, why not do a video consultation right then and there? You can be assessed by a physician who can essentially look and see whether or not you are using your accessory respiratory muscles for breathing – and then effectively triage you and determine if you do actually need to go to the emergency department.

Tania Elliott, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist and immunologist and associate attending physician at NYU Langone Health. She is a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).

Have a medical question? Email editor@allergyasthmanetwork.org or write to Ask the Allergist, Allergy & Asthma Network, 8229 Boone Blvd., Suite 260, Vienna, VA 22182.

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