Managing Asthma: Checklist for Doctor Visits

Asthma is a leading cause of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and missed school days in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods. Working with a doctor helps people with asthma learn how control it so that it does not interfere with their daily activities. Follow these steps to get the most out of visits to the doctor.

Visit your doctor regularly

If you or your child has asthma, go to the doctor for regular checkups, even if you are feeling well.

  • Let the doctor know if asthma interferes with sleep, work, school, play or exercise.
  • Tell your doctor how often you or your child have symptoms such as coughing or wheezing, and how often you use your quick-relief inhaler.
  • Keep all asthma appointments, even if you feel fine and are breathing well.
  • Ask the doctor for a written Asthma Action Plan (PDF) to use at home to help you control your asthma. If you have questions about the asthma action plan form, read Your Road Map to an Asthma Action Plan (PDF).
  • Your doctor can send you to a specialist in asthma care if you or your child has special problems getting asthma under control.
  • Ask about a peak flow meter or a spacer to help you take charge of your asthma.

Prepare for your visit

When you go to the doctor:

  • Bring all of your medicines, including home remedies or non-prescription medicines
  • Bring your peak flow meter and diary
  • Bring your spacer
  • Demonstrate how you use your medicines and peak flow meter to make sure you are doing it right

Know what should happen during a visit

At each visit, your doctor should:

  • Take a peak flow reading
  • Ask about recent symptoms
  • Show you/your child how to use a pump
  • Discuss triggers and how to prevent asthma episodes
  • Tell you what to do if you or your child have asthma at school or work
  • Tell you how to get in touch if you or your child are having asthma symptoms after the office is closed
  • Review your Asthma Action Plan (PDF)

Questions to ask the doctor or nurse

For each medicine, ask:

  • Is this a preventive or quick relief medicine?
  • How much to take and when to take it?
  • How long to take it?
  • What are the possible side effects and how to avoid them?
  • Is it an inhaled medicine, a pill or a syrup?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Is it possible to get two prescriptions so that one can be kept at school?
  • Do I need a spacer (if the medicine is in a pump) and how can I get one?

Before you leave the doctor's office:

  • Ask for a peak flow meter.
  • Ask what do to and who to call if your breathing gets worse and your medicines are not helping.
  • If you have trouble paying for medicines or doctor’s visits, or need help with housing or other issues that affect your asthma, ask your nurse or doctor if you can speak with a social worker.

Things to remember after the visit

  • Take your medicine exactly as the doctor says.
  • Get the prescriptions filled right away.
  • Take the right amount of medicine at the right times.
  • Keep taking the medicine as long as the doctor says to even if you feel fine and you are breathing well.
  • See your doctor within 2 days of any emergency room visit or hospitalization, even if you feel better.

Always tell the doctor if due to asthma, you or your child has:

  • Missed school or work
  • Had symptoms, including waking at night due to coughing
  • Gone to the emergency room
  • Been hospitalized

How and When to Use Asthma Medications

Controller medicines

Controller medicines can be used to prevent attacks in people with persistent asthma. You have persistent asthma if you have daytime symptoms more than twice a week or nighttime symptoms more than twice a month.

  • Controllers must be taken every day, even when you feel well.
  • Inhaled corticosteroids are not the same as anabolic steroids, which some people use to unsafely build muscles.

Quick relief medicines

Quick-relief medicines can be used to relieve symptoms:

  • Unlike controllers, quick-relief medicines don’t prevent attacks.
  • Carry quick-relief medicine all the time in case of an emergency.

Many people use their quick-relief medicine too often.

  • Do you use your quick-relief medicine every single day to stop an asthma episode?
  • Do you need it more than four times in one day to stop asthma episodes?

If you said "yes" to either question, then you are having too many asthma episodes. Your quick-relief medicine may make you feel better for a little while, but it does not mean you are getting better. In fact, the airways in your lungs are getting more and more swollen, and you are in danger of having a serious asthma episode.

Ask your doctor for a preventive medicine that will help stop the swelling in your airways to avoid asthma episodes.


Many asthma medicines are inhaled. If you use a metered dose inhaler or pump, be sure to use a spacer. This helps to get the right amount of medicine directly to your lungs. Follow your doctor’s instructions for administering medicine and avoid things that can make asthma symptoms worse.

Asthma medication factsheets

If you need help finding a doctor or need information about free or low-cost health insurance, call 311.

More Asthma Resources