You’re more likely to get answers to the questions that matter to you, and get the help you need to stop asthma symptoms getting in the way, if you prepare for your appointment in advance.
Just taking a bit of time to go through these steps will help you make the most of your time with the specialist, whether it's a specialist consultant in your local hospital, or a specialist team in a specialist asthma centre.
STEP 1: Ask yourself ‘what do I want from my specialist care appointment?’
It’s a good idea to set aside some time before you go to think about what you want from the appointment. What would you like to come away with? What would make the most difference to you and your asthma?
Would you like to:
- get answers to questions you have?
- be reassured about worries you have?
- talk about other health conditions that might be making a difference to your asthma?
- get advice about work triggers?
- know more about tests used to confirm severe asthma?
- talk about which medicines might help your particular type of asthma?
- get a full review of your medicines to help cut any side effects you’re getting?
STEP 2: Consider all the practical ways you can prepare
Being clear about all the practical details can help stress levels on the day. The calmer you are, the more likely it is you’ll be able to take in what the specialist says and remember everything you want to ask.
Read through your appointment letter again
It will tell you:
- the date, time and length of your appointment and where to go
- the name(s) of the specialist(s) you’ll be seeing
- if you need to stop, or keep, taking any of your asthma or allergy medicines
- if you need to avoid smoking or eating a big meal before the appointment
- if you need to bring your medicines with you (you won’t have to take your nebuliser if you have one at home)
- where you need to go, including the name of the hospital wing or building. This means you can follow the signs rather than having to go to the main reception or trying to find somebody to ask.
Take note of the appointment date
You could write it in a diary or on a calendar, set up a phone reminder, or stick the letter on the fridge.
If you miss your appointment you’ll be setting back your health because you’ll probably have to wait a while for another one.
What’s the best way to make it easy for you to remember?
Film yourself when you're having symptoms
Some people find it helpful to take a video on their phone when they’re having asthma symptoms. Or ask someone else to film them.
It can be useful at the appointment - you can show the consultant and they can quickly see what your symptoms are like so you don’t have to try to describe them.
"Filming symptoms can be a useful way to show your GP what's going on. But don't delay giving yourself treatment or getting help," says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK's in-house GP.
Think about asking a family member or friend to come to the appointment with you
It can often feel like there’s a lot to take in and it’s good to have someone else there to take notes or just listen in.
It can also be helpful to have someone with you who has experience of your symptoms and attacks so they can give more information from their point of view.
Plan how you're going to get to the appointment
Find out if the hospital will help you with transport if it is difficult for you to get to and from the asthma centre. There’s a useful round-up of transport services available here .
If you’re driving or getting public transport, plan your route in advance. And if you’re planning to park in the hospital car park make sure you’ve got plenty of change (it can be very expensive).
Give yourself extra time so you can arrive feeling calm.
STEP 3: Think about what you need to take to your appointment
- The letter confirming your appointment
- The name of the specialist you’re seeing (this should be in the letter)
- The phone number of the asthma centre in case you’re delayed for any reason and need to call them on the way
- Your written asthma action plan if you’ve got one, or any apps you use to manage your asthma
- Your symptom diary if you’ve been keeping one
- Your asthma medicines, if you need to bring them
- The names and doses of any other medicines you’re taking, such as antibiotics
- Details about courses of steroids you've had, when you've been admitted to hospital, or needed to go to A&E for your asthma
STEP 4: Make a list of key questions
Each appointment with your consultant is your chance to get the answers you need to help you with your asthma.
You may want to ask questions about:
- Is there an obvious reason why the treatments I’m already taking for my asthma aren’t working for me?
- What treatments do you have for severe asthma and which ones do you think will work for me?
- How does this new treatment you’re recommending work?
- How long will I need to take any new treatments before we know whether they work or not?
- What possible side effects do these new treatments have?
- Who will continue to prescribe the medicines I need?
Your specialist care
- What tests do I need and why?
- How long do you think it might take to work out whether or not I’ve got severe asthma?
- Is there someone in your team I can contact if I have any problems, or if the change in treatment isn't working or doesn't suit me? When would you expect me to contact them?
- What happens if I have an asthma attack? Do I come here? Or go to A&E?
- When will I need to see you again?
- Do I still need to see my GP or asthma nurse now that I’m seeing you? How often?
- Will my GP get updates from you so they understand how my asthma is being managed?
Your work and lifestyle
- I can’t work – can I get financial help?
- Is there any psychological support available? Many severe asthma teams have psychologists who are specially trained to support people who are struggling to cope with the impact of severe asthma and occupational asthma.
- Can I get help with things around the house?
- Can I exercise if I have severe asthma?
- What can I do, and what can my family do, to help keep my asthma under control?
- What can I do if work triggers my severe asthma?
STEP 5: While you’re in the appointment, remember that honesty is the best policy
Be open with your consultant
You will get the care and support most likely to make a real difference to your health and wellbeing if you can be frank and honest, even when it's about things you feel uncertain or embarrassed about.
It could be anything from not taking your medicines as prescribed because of worries about steroids, to struggling with quitting smoking, or questions about complementary therapies or treatments you want to use.
Check you understand
Don't be afraid to ask your consultant to explain anything you don't understand. You could say something like: "I'm not quite sure I heard what you said about x. Would you mind going over it again?"
If you have any questions about your specialist care appointment, call our Helpline and talk to our experienced asthma nurse specialists: 0300 222 5800 (Mon -Fri, 9am-5pm). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.
Last updated January 2020
Next review due January 2023