Prepare For A Doctor’s Visit
There is a lot of good advice out there about how to prepare for a doctor’s visit, and you’ve probably seen some of it. As an allergy and asthma nurse, I’d like to share a few tips based on my experience with patients. These tips will help you know what to expect and how to prepare for an allergist appointment.
Know your meds.
If you’re a new patient, you probably expect the doctor to ask you a lot of questions about your medical history. This includes a list of your medications – ALL of them. When I ask new patients what they’re taking, a common response is “nothing related to this”. You may already be on allergy and asthma medications, or you may not be. Either way, each member of your medical team needs to know all the medications you’re taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medication or vitamin supplements. This is for your safety, and will help improve your care.
Lists (hand written or typed) and plastic baggies are very nice.
Know your history.
This seems like a no brainer. Yet it is not uncommon for a patient who bring a comprehensive list of their medications to be the same patient who tells me that he or she does not have any medical conditions.
Prescriptions such as Zoloft, Lipitor, and Metoprolol are given for a reason (depression, anxiety, high cholesterol, high blood pressure). These reasons are part of your medical history.
People may not think of these reasons as medical conditions or diagnoses. Others may feel there is a stigma associated with certain diagnoses. Regardless, allergists need to know about the medical history to assure safe treatment.
Keep a symptom diary.
Many people visit an allergist because they think a food, medicine, soap or chemical is causing an allergic reaction. Sometimes these concerns turn out to be true, sometimes they don’t. Either way, they want an answer. What are they allergic to? Do you have hives, itching or an upset stomach? Is it related to an allergy?
This is where a symptom diary is helpful. Keep track of the following:
- When do your symptoms occur – morning, evening, afternoon, night? All the time?
- Do they get better or worse throughout the day (if so, rate the severity at different times)?
- Are the symptoms related to a physical activity – bathing, exercising, walking the dog, raking leaves, swimming, putting on makeup?
- If you’re concerned about a food allergy, is there a pattern? There is a medical difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. There is also a third type of issue that is not an allergy, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Each of these things is treated differently. To get a good answer, keep track of what you eat, when, and what your symptoms are.
- Did you start using a new product in your laundry, makeup or cleaning?
Do your research, but trust your doctor.
Your allergist is a highly trained medical professional. You want to make the most of your appointment. Doing research prior to your visit is common. There is a lot of information available to people who know how to find it. Looking at reputable websites and talking to friends and family is a way to gather information. Your research will help you prepare questions for your healthcare professional. It will not give you the personalized recommendations based on your specific symptoms and history. A trained medical professional will use their experience and your health history information to make a diagnosis. If appropriate, your allergist will recommend medication regimes and actions that avoid side effects, while helping you manage your symptoms.
Bring up any concerns DURING your visit.
This includes concerns about side effects, interactions, or anything else that may come up during your research. Following your doctor’s recommendations is critical to improving your health, so clear the air about any questions before you head home so that you are comfortable with the follow up care.
Preparing for your visit with an allergist or any physician is a great way to ease concern and assure you have a strong partnership in your health.