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The questions to ask your doctor

If you’ve scored less than 20 on your Asthma Control Test, it means that your asthma symptoms may not be as well controlled as they could be. There may be more you or your healthcare provider could do to help control your asthma symptoms, so you may have some questions for your healthcare team. 

We’ve included some of them here, but you will probably also have questions of your own.

Working alongside your healthcare team as a partnership can be a big help in keeping your asthma under control.

What is “uncontrolled asthma”?

You may have heard this term if you’ve taken the Asthma Control Test. But “uncontrolled asthma” is not necessarily a reflection of the way you are managing your condition.

Controlling asthma is about achieving a balance between preventing troublesome symptoms and ensuring you are not taking any more medication than you need to.

If you find your life is affected in the following ways and you score below 20 when you complete the Asthma Control Test, your asthma may be “uncontrolled”:

  • Have you experienced trouble sleeping because of your asthma?
  • Have you regularly used your rescue inhaler or nebuliser medication?
  • Has your asthma kept you from getting as much done at work, school or home?
  • Have you experienced shortness of breath?

What might be the reason my asthma is “uncontrolled”?

Everyone’s asthma is different, and so you will have a treatment plan that is tailored to you. If it isn’t working as well as it could, this may be why you have scored less than 20 in the Asthma Control Test.

The score may mean you are not taking the most appropriate medicine for you and/or at the right dose. For example, you may be taking a reliever inhaler that works fast to relax the airway muscles to help alleviate acute symptoms, but you may also need to regularly use a preventer inhaler to help treat the inflammation that causes asthma so that you have less chance of having an asthma attack or flare-up.

A score of less than 20 may also indicate that you are not taking your medication in the way it was prescribed. Perhaps you have forgotten a dose here or there, or maybe you’re using the inhaler incorrectly.

Alternatively, your asthma may be uncontrolled because of the time of year or the weather, and you may need to adapt the way you manage your asthma during these times.

Because asthma is such a complex condition, there are many reasons it might not be as well controlled as it could be. That is why it is so important to speak to your healthcare team so you can work it out together.

A score of less than 20 may indicate that you are not taking your medication in the way it was prescribed.

How should I prepare for my appointment and what should I ask?

Your healthcare team will want to know if you have scored less than 20 on an ACT. You may want to print your results and make an appointment.

In preparation for your consultation, have a think about how your asthma has been affecting you. It may help to keep a symptom diary, in which you can make a note of how you feel, any triggers you noticed and whether you have taken your medication as prescribed. 

Asthma UK suggests asking someone else to film you, or film yourself, when you are having symptoms. This gives your team the best possible idea of what you are experiencing.

It might also help to make a list of questions before your appointment, checking to make sure you have asked them all before you leave. They might include:

  • Am I on the right dose of medicine?
  • Is this the best inhaler for me?
  • How can I cope with triggers?
  • What do I do if symptoms get worse?
  • Does my Asthma Action Plan need updating?
  • How can I get into a good routine with my asthma medicines?
  • How do I know if I’m taking my inhaler correctly?

Be open and honest with your team: if you are not taking your medication as prescribed or you have concerns about side effects, talk to them. And don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or nurse prescriber to explain anything you don’t understand.

Remember, it is your appointment, and the goal is to put you in control of your asthma.

Check if your asthma is in control, take the Asthma Control Test here

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