Do You Need an Asthma Specialist Involved in Your Care?
Most people who have asthma or parents of children with asthma can manage the disease and treatment on their own with just the direction of their family doctor, pediatrician, or primary care physician. But in cases where asthma is severe or hard to control, there can be real benefits in getting a referral to an asthma specialist.
This post will give you some tips on how to know when you need a specialist and how to find the right asthma specialist doctor for your needs.
Who Needs to See a Specialist?
Your primary care doctor will probably consider referring you to an asthma specialist if your:
- diagnosis of asthma is in doubt
- asthma has only been controlled with regular or frequent oral steroids
- symptoms persist, even with high doses of medication
- symptoms have accelerated into a severe attack, requiring emergency care
Types of Asthma Specialists
There is not just one type of physician who is an asthma specialist. While this can be confusing to sort out, it also means you have choices.
- Pulmonologist. This is a doctor who has specialized training and experience in preventing, diagnosing, and treating respiratory illnesses and lung conditions, such as asthma and COPD. Pulmonologists are able to do in-depth lung function testing. That can be helpful in reaching a diagnosis of asthma. Some specialize further in working either with adults or children.
- Allergist/Immunologist. Most people who have asthma have allergic asthma. This means that the underlying cause of their asthma is a sensitivity to certain environmental substances called allergens. So, an allergist, also called an immunologist because they specialize in allergies and diseases of the immune system, can be very helpful in gaining control of asthma.
If you have any class of asthma other than mild, intermittent, there's a good chance that you will benefit from at least a consultation with an asthma specialist. Your primary doctor can help you decide which of these specialties will work best for you, given your symptoms, and course of health thus far.
Another type of specialist that may provide supplemental help is a respiratory therapist. These therapists are not doctors. But they are health care professionals with advanced education and training in working with respiratory conditions. They can provide education, support, and assistance in breathing techniques, use of inhalers and nebulizers, and dealing with asthma.
How to Find an Asthma Specialist
The best place to start, especially if you need a referral for insurance purposes, is with your primary care doctor, whether that is a family practice physician, a pediatrician, or an internist. But you don't have to stop there.
You can also find reviews and information about doctors online. Or tap into your social network. This can help you find the right match for you or your child.
Important Things to Find Out Before You Commit
There are a few questions you may want to ask before you arrange an appointment to see a specialist. This can help avoid making a mistake that could delay needed treatment.
- Does the doctor accept your insurance plan? If not, can arrangements be made for payment?
- What are the doctor's qualifications as an asthma specialist? For example, is s/he board-certified? What type of experience does the doctor have? Where did s/he go to medical school?
- Where does the doctor have hospital privileges? This is some key information for someone with a chronic illness that may require hospitalization or emergency care from time to time.
- What would I expect during an initial office visit? Will the doctor take time to not only examine you and prescribe treatment, but also to sit and talk with you about your concerns and questions?
When you go to meet with the asthma specialist, be sure to bring any records you may have about your asthma, how it's been treated and how you've responded. Be prepared to be frank and honest, for the best results.
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