Signs and symptoms of asthma
To make a diagnosis of asthma the doctor will:
Take a detailed medical history. Your doctor will ask detailed questions about your family medical history, your breathing problems, and other asthma symptoms you might have.
Do a physical examination: The doctor will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope; examine your nasal passages, etc.
Test your breathing with spirometry. Spirometry is a quick, simple breathing test that measures how much air you can blow out of your lungs. This might be done in a hospital or in your doctors' office. For this test, you'll be asked to blow hard and long through a tube attached to a small machine. The machine will show how many litres of air you can push out of your lungs and how fast. Because spirometry takes some coordination, children under 5 years old are not usually asked to do this test.
Find a lung function testing lab in your area, using our online database.
Your doctor may also order other tests:
- Chest x-ray
- Lab tests on your blood and sputum (phlegm, mucus)
- Allergy testing: Your doctor may refer you to an allergist, who will test you for specific allergies, ask what your symptoms are and when you notice them. Usually allergists use a skin prick test. This may help to find out what allergies makes your asthma worse.
- Challenge tests: These tests are done in a hospital. They help to tell the doctor how "twitchy" or hyper-responsive your airways are.
Trial of asthma medications: The doctor may give you asthma medications to try out. If the asthma medications make your symptoms go away, this may help to make the diagnosis of asthma.
With a proper diagnosis, your doctor and asthma healthcare team can help you manage your asthma.
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