Diagnosing Asthma

Asthma treatment depends on your doctor's diagnosis

Doctors diagnose asthma based on medical and family histories, a physical exam, and test results. Your doctor will determine if the asthma is intermittent (occurs off and on) or persistent, and if it's mild, moderate or severe—and prescribe the correct treatment for the level of severity. Use the asthma symptoms checklist to help you start that discussion.

Medical and family histories

Your doctor will want to know you or your child's medical history, and whether any family members have asthma or allergies. You may be asked:

  • What are the asthma symptoms?
  • When and how often do they occur?
  • Do they only happen at certain times of the year?
  • Only at certain places?
  • Are they worse at night?
  • What triggers the symptoms?
  • What makes them worse?
  • Does anyone in the family have asthma?
  • Are there related health conditions that can interfere with asthma management, such as:
    • A runny nose
    • Sinus infections
    • Psychological stress
    • Sleep apnea

Physical exam

Your doctor may listen to your breathing for signs of asthma or allergies. These include wheezing, a runny nose or swollen nasal passages, and allergic skin conditions (such as eczema). You can still have asthma even if these signs aren't present.

Respiratory diagnostic tests

Don’t let the names scare you. These tests may be performed right in a doctor's office.

  • Spirometry

    Determines how much air you can exhale from your lungs. First, you breathe in deeply and then exhale strongly into the tube of a spirometer. If you don't meet the standard for your age and gender, you then inhale a bronchodilator—an asthma drug that widens the air passages of the lungs and eases breathing. If, after repeating the test, your lung function has improved, the doctor may suspect asthma.

  • Bronchoprovocation

    Measures the sensitivity of the airways. Your doctor may suggest this test if you have symptoms that suggest asthma, but have normal spirometry testing and no response to rescue medications.

  • IOS

    A newer test called an IOS (impulse oscillometry) is a quick and easy diagnostic test for asthma that works well in children. IOS requires little coordination or cooperation (just brief, normal breathing into a mouthpiece). It measures airway resistance, while the patient engages in normal breathing.

  • FeNO (fractional exhaled nitric oxide)

    A noninvasive and easily available method for diagnosing asthma is the measurement of FeNO (fractional exhaled nitric oxide). This test measures the amount of nitric oxide (NO) in the lungs. Nitric oxide is a marker of inflammation.

  • Allergy test

    Your doctor may also recommend an allergy test to find out which allergens (such as pollen, pet dander and dust), if any, are asthma triggers.

  • Additional tests

    Your doctor may ask for a test to show whether another condition is present with symptoms similar to those found in asthma, such as reflux disease, vocal cord dysfunction or sleep apnea. A chest X-ray or an EKG (electrocardiogram) may also be required to find out whether a foreign object in the airways or another disease might be causing symptoms.

If your doctor diagnoses persistent mild-to-moderate asthma, ask if QVAR® may be the right asthma treatment for you.

Think your child may have asthma? Learn about recognizing asthma in children.

Approved Uses
QVAR® (beclomethasone dipropionate HFA) Inhalation Aerosol is used in the ongoing treatment of asthma as preventative therapy in patients 5 years of age or older.

QVAR® is also used for asthma patients who require systemic corticosteroid administration, where adding QVAR® may reduce or eliminate the need for systemic corticosteroids.
Important Safety Information
  • QVAR does not replace quick-relief inhalers for sudden symptoms
  • Do not use QVAR if you are allergic to beclomethasone dipropionate or any of the ingredients in QVAR
  • Do not use QVAR more often than it is prescribed. Do not stop taking QVAR abruptly without talking to your healthcare provider
  • QVAR may cause serious side effects, including:
    • Fungal infections (thrush). Tell your healthcare provider if you have any redness or white-colored patches in your mouth or throat. Rinse your mouth after using QVAR to help prevent an infection in your mouth or throat
    • Worsening asthma or sudden asthma attacks. After using your rescue inhaler, contact your healthcare provider right away if you do not get relief from your sudden asthma attacks
    • Decreased adrenal function. This potentially life-threatening condition can happen when you stop taking oral corticosteroid medicines and start using QVAR. Tell your healthcare provider right away about any symptoms such as: tiredness, weakness, nausea and vomiting, and dizziness or faintness
    • Immune system effects or infection. Tell your healthcare provider about any signs or symptoms, such as: fever, pain, body aches, chills, feeling tired, nausea, or vomiting
    • Increased wheezing right after QVAR use. Always have a rescue inhaler with you to treat sudden wheezing
    • Serious allergic reactions. Stop using QVAR and call your healthcare provider or get emergency medical help right away if you get any of the following: hives; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face; rash; or breathing problems
    • Slowed growth in children. Children should have their growth checked regularly while using QVAR
    • Lower bone density. This may be a problem for people who already have a higher chance for this condition
    • Eye problems. If you have had glaucoma or cataracts in the past, you should have regular eye exams while using QVAR
  • The most common side effects of QVAR include: headache, throat irritation, and sinus irritation

  • Please see full Prescribing Information

    You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.