DrWhite2Q: I panic whenever I call the doctor about my son’s asthma symptoms. I am sure I don’t give information the doctor needs quickly or in a logical order. What information should I have ready at all times?

Martha White, MD: If your child looks like he’s heading into an asthma flare, don’t wait until it gets severe to call your physician. The earlier you treat asthma, the easier it is to manage and the faster your child gets better. A proactive approach to asthma usually keeps most children with asthma out of emergency situations.

If you were calling me about your child during an asthma flare, I would need to know when the flare started, what your child’s routine asthma and allergy medications are, what medications you had given your son since the beginning of the flare, when you gave it, and the dose. For example, “He started coughing two days ago and this morning he seemed wheezy. He takes Flovent™, two puffs a day, and tonight I’ve already given him two breathing treatments with albuterol.”

I would need to know what other asthma medications you have at home and a pharmacy phone number in case a new prescription needs to be called in.

If your son is old enough and able at the time of the phone call to use a peak flow meter, I would want to know his peak flow meter reading at that moment and how it compares to his best-ever reading. I would also want to know how quickly the readings dropped, such as over a couple of days versus a few hours. That’s important to know, because it helps me to know how aggressively the asthma flare needs to be managed.

It’s also important to note any other factors that might be causing symptoms, such as a lingering cold, recent respiratory infection, or exposure to something new such as a pet, indoor environment, or food. I might also ask if there had been any recent changes to the Asthma Action Plan.

Before you call, it’s best to write down all of the information you feel you need to communicate to your doctor quickly and efficiently.


Martha White, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist at the Institute of Asthma and Allergy in Wheaton, Md., a member of Allergy & Asthma Network’s Board of Directors, and a fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.


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