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Inside the Asthma Guide: A Doctor's Tour

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Diagnosis & Tests

Before you take any asthma medication, you want to be certain that the diagnosis of asthma is correct. If you haven't had one already, an asthma test can help confirm that you have asthma. You may also want to confirm that the asthma treatments prescribed are actually making a measurable difference. That's why pulmonary function tests (lung function) are so important—so if you are diagnosed with asthma, you can take the proper steps to self-manage your asthma every day.

Treatment & Self-Care

If you're unsure about using the asthma treatments your doctor prescribed, you should learn more about them – how they work, how to tell if they are effective, what side-effects you may experience, and what other treatments are available. Although some asthma medications are pills, the mainstay medications are "asthma puffers" or asthma inhalers – either anti-inflammatory drugs or bronchodilators (airway openers). Many people don't use their inhalers correctly, so they don't get optimal relief from chest tightness or coughing. Make sure you're using your asthma inhalers correctly. And know when to turn to an asthma nebulizer (breathing machine) to treat an asthma attack.

Inhaled anti-inflammatory drugs (asthma controllers) are the foundation of preventive treatment for most people with asthma. Some people also need a long-acting bronchodilator to help keep their airways open. You will also need some "rescue inhalers," or short-term asthma relievers, which work within a few minutes to relieve asthma symptoms. When your airways are relaxed and open, air can flow in and out of your lungs more easily.

No matter what medication your doctor prescribes -- anti-inflammatory drugs,bronchodilators, or prednisone -- it's important to stay on the asthma medication for as long as prescribed. Also, ask your doctor to write up an asthma action plan to help you understand and manage your asthma every day. Make sure your child has an asthma action plan, and talk to your child's teachers about bringing asthma medications to school.

Day-to-Day Living

Self-managing asthma can be challenging, especially if you are busy juggling careers, kids, or other commitments. That's why knowledge is power in living with asthma. Learn more about the basics of asthma and diet. Discover how exercising with asthma can help increase your endurance and help keep you fit. Also, learn about finding asthma support, so you can manage stress and anxiety and reduce your asthma symptoms. There are answers, and WebMD’s Asthma Guide provides them for you.

You are sure to have more questions, even after reading our Asthma Guide. There are two asthma message boards on WebMD. At my asthma message board, I answer questions once or twice a week. Patients and parents with lots of experience with asthma can respond very quickly to your questions on WebMD's Asthma Support Group. In addition, I've found some excellent information on asthma from online asthma organizations.

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