Asthma Test
Reasons to Have One, What to Expect, Associated Risks & More


6 Reasons Why You Would Need an Asthma Test

1. Asthma symptoms

An asthma test is a series of tests and exams that help your doctor determine if you have asthma.[1] These are several different tests and exams that are usually done over the course of one appointment. The main reason for an asthma test is because you have been experiencing the symptoms of asthma, which include but are not limited to: coughing, wheezing, breathing issues or difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and tightness of the chest.[2]

2. Allergic symptoms

Allergies are one of the most common causes of asthma. If you are allergic to something or you are experiencing the symptoms of allergies, it is likely your doctor will want to check you for asthma with an asthma test. Although allergic asthma is common, it can cause serious, even life-threatening symptoms.

3. Family history of asthma

If your parents or someone else in your family has a history of asthma and you start experiencing symptoms that could be related to the condition, your doctor may want to do an asthma test to determine if you have asthma. A family history of asthma and other breathing problems can increase the risk of asthma.[3]

4. GERD

Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD is a digestive disorder that causes chronic issues with acid reflux, indigestion, and heartburn. 75 percent of patients who suffer from asthma also have GERD, which is why a doctor might want to check you for one of these disorders if you are experiencing the other.[4]

5. Sinusitis

Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, can also be connected with asthma. About half of those with asthma experience chronic sinusitis as well.[5] As such, your doctor will probably want to check you for asthma if you constantly have issues with sinusitis.

6. Triggered symptoms

While you will likely deal with symptoms triggered by certain allergens if you have allergic asthma, those with asthma might also experience triggers of other kinds. These can be issues that are not considered to be allergens but can still cause shortness of breath, trouble breathing, wheezing, and coughing in asthma patients, including exercise, cold air, and cigarette smoke.[6]

Understanding an Asthma Test

An asthma test will usually start with your doctor discussing your medical history.[6] Your doctor might ask you if anyone in your family suffers from asthma or hay fever and if you have any issues that have already been diagnosed that go hand-in-hand with asthma. Finally, your doctor will ask you about your day-to-day experiences, such as if you have a pet, are often exposed to chemicals, and whether your work causes you to experience any exposure issues.

Next, it will be time for the physical exam. Your doctor will need to examine your skin to see if you have any signs of allergic disorders like hives or eczema. The doctor will then examine your throat, nose, and airways before using a stethoscope to listen to your breathing. If you show signs of wheezing and other asthmatic symptoms, your doctor will be able to tell.[6]

Finally, your doctor might want to perform several tests. The spirometry test is the test most often used for those over five years of age. In this test, you will take a deep breath and breathe out into a tube. This test will measure the amount of air you are able to exhale as well as how fast you are able to do it.

Your doctor may also want to perform a challenge test, where you will be asked to exercise in order to see if physical activity triggers asthmatic symptoms. You may also be asked to perform the exhaled nitric oxide test that measures the amount of nitric oxide gas in your breath as you exhale. High levels of nitric oxide gas could mean you have asthma.[6]

Risks of Getting an Asthma Test

1. Poor candidates

Some individuals are poor candidates for an asthma test, as the rapid breathing in and out can create problematic results. Poor candidates can include those who have recently had surgery, those who have recently had a heart attack, and those with a severe respiratory infection.[7]

2. Faintness

Fainting can occur from these tests because many of them require physical exertion or breathing quickly in and out. If you do have asthma, you have an increased risk of fainting or becoming dizzy from an asthma test.

3. Collapsed lung

Rarely, an asthma test can result in a collapsed lung.[7] Talk to your doctor about whether you could be at risk of this side effect, although it rarely occurs.

What to Expect with an Asthma Test

1. Preparing for the test

You will need to prepare for the test beforehand by avoiding smoking, caffeine, and exercise for the day before the test.[8] In addition, you may need to stop taking certain medications, as they could affect the results of the test. Talk to your doctor about any other preparations you will need to take.

2. Avoiding side effects

Because some of the elements of an asthma test can have certain risks associated with them, it is important to always tell your doctor if you are experiencing any issues before, during, or after the testing process.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Your Asthma Test

  • Is it safe for me to undergo an asthma exam?
  • Are there any medications I should stop taking or other preparations I should make for the exam?
  • Am I just being tested for asthma or for other conditions as well?
  • Are there ways I can avoid the potential risks of an asthma exam?

Asthma Test May Also be Known as:

  • Asthma exam
  • Pulmonary test
  • Pulmonary function test
  • PFT

References

  1. WebMD. Asthma Diagnosis and Tests. https://www.webmd.com/asthma/diagnosing-asthma-tests - 1.
  2. National Library of Medicine. Asthma. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000141.htm.
  3. Healthline. Asthma. https://www.healthline.com/health/asthma - diagnosis.
  4. Cleveland Clinic. GERD and Asthma. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10686-gerd-and-asthma.
  5. WebMD. Sinus Infections and Asthma. https://www.webmd.com/asthma/sinusitis-and-asthma - 1.
  6. Mayo Clinic. Asthma: Steps in testing and diagnosis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/in-depth/asthma/art-20045198.
  7. Healthline. Pulmonary Function Tests. https://www.healthline.com/health/pulmonary-function-tests - risks.
  8. Cleveland Clinic. Asthma Testing. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/8958-asthma-testing--diagnosis/test-details.

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