Diagnosing asthma in an individual patient is challenging for a number of reasons. Because asthma attacks occur suddenly and for a short period of time, patients often go see a doctor without showing any symptoms at all.

Furthermore, most of the symptoms are nonspecific to asthma, meaning they are also symptoms for other conditions, such as emphysema, bronchitis, or pneumonia. This makes an asthma diagnosis tricky, especially when symptoms vary from person to person and even differ from one attack to another in the same person.

At the Doctor's Office

As asthma is most often diagnosed in children, you will likely visit your child’s pediatrician for asthma screening. The doctor will use several factors to make an asthma diagnosis. He or she will ask you several questions about your child’s medical history and the nature of his or her symptoms and perform a routine physical examination. Finally, your doctor will likely run one or more asthma tests—such as a spirometry—for further evaluation and could refer you to a specialist who focuses on lung function and breathing disorders.