The following information should be obtained when a patient with asthma presents to the ED with shortness of breath or wheeze [2]:

  • Time of onset of symptoms
  • Onset abrupt or gradual?
  • Pleuritic chest pain?
  • Fever?
  • Cough (and nature of cough)?
  • Current medication
  • Compliant with medications?
  • Allergies?
  • Specific questioning about current/recent use of steroids
  • Frequency of use of β2 agonist
  • Any treatment given by emergency responders/ambulance staff?
  • Specific questioning about use of aspirin, NSAID’s and beta-blockers
  • Pregnant?
  • Previous best PEFR (in the last 2 years)
  • Smoker?
Deaths in asthmatics continue to be reported following inappropriate prescription of:

  • Beta-blockers (contra-indicated)
  • NSAIDs (Contra-indicated if previous exacerbation related to NSAID or aspirin use)