Asthma and You

This blog from St. Louis College of Pharmacy is devoted to providing important and easy to understand patient information. In the coming posts you’ll find summaries of current best treatments. We will also bring you breaking news about medicines, recommend health and medicine related resources, and much more.

Asthma is a very common problem across our nation. About one out of every 11 children has asthma. It is even more common in the St. Louis area. The St. Louis Regional Asthma Consortium estimates asthma is about three times higher here. In some schools, about one child in five has asthma. Most children do not “grow out” of asthma, which means asthma is common in adults as well.

There is good news about asthma.  Most asthma can be controlled with the right medications and lifestyle changes. Children and adults with asthma can live normal, active lives. In the coming weeks, asthma friendly pharmacists and asthma educators Sue Bollmeier and Theresa Prosser will answer some common questions about asthma and asthma treatments to help you breathe your best.

Question: Why is it important for a person who might have asthma to see a physician or health care provider? How often should someone with asthma go for a check up?

Answer: The correct diagnosis is an important first step to help breathing problems. Not everyone who wheezes or is short of breath has asthma. Different medicines treat different breathing problems. So, seeing a physician or provider is key for the right treatment.

If you have asthma, you should see your provider regularly for medications to prevent your symptoms. Preventing symptoms lets people with asthma do everyday activities and live normal lives. The frequency of asthma visits depends on how well asthma is controlled. Asthma is well controlled if symptoms happen less than twice a week, or if symptoms wake you up at night less than twice a month.

At an asthma visit, the doctor should ask about the frequency of asthma symptoms. Asthma symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, or cough. You should be asked about how often you use quick-relief medication and how asthma affects your daily activities. Completing a short questionnaire such as the Asthma Control Test® would collect this information. The doctor will also listen to your lungs. Your lung function might be checked by other breathing tests, such as peak flow. Using this information, asthma medicines will be continued or adjusted. It may be necessary to go back every month or two to adjust medications until the asthma is controlled.

Once asthma symptoms are controlled, people should see their doctor once or twice a year.  The doctor will again perform a complete asthma check-up.

Asthma Friendly Pharmacy Tips-

  • See your asthma provider if you:
    • Have asthma symptoms more than twice a week
    • Use your quick relief medicine more twice a week. 
    • Wake up at night due to asthma more than twice a month.
    • When scheduling an appointment with your provider, be sure to ask for an asthma visit. Insurance may only pay for one “well” or check-up visit annually. However, multiple asthma visits are usually covered.
    • It is especially important for children to schedule an asthma visit before returning to school in the fall.  Call your provider soon to schedule that appointment.

Suzanne G. Bollmeier, Pharm.D., BCPS, AE-C, professor of pharmacy practice

Theresa R. Prosser, Pharm.D., BCPS, AE-C, professor of pharmacy practice