Image Credit: Getty Images / noipornpan

Diagnosed with Asthma? 6 Types of Doctors You Might See

Reading time | 3 mins

So, you’ve been diagnosed with asthma. Are you confused about which type of doctor you should see?

There’s an array of doctors who care for people with asthma. Here are a few of the most common healthcare providers you may meet if you’re living with the condition, starting with primary care doctors, who are trained to provide first contact and continuing care:

Pediatrician

Pediatricians treat kids from birth to age 21. A pediatrician diagnosed me with asthma way back in 1972. Despite there being less medications available back then, he was able to treat my asthma just fine. All three of my kids also have asthma and are all cared for by a pediatrician.

One of my children had really bad sinus trouble along with asthma. His pediatrician admitted he wasn't sure how to handle this. So, my son was referred to a specialist called an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT). These two doctors worked together to help my son feel better.

Family doctor

Family doctors treat people of all ages for health issues big and small. My mom switched our family over to a family doctor when I was 12. This would have been back in 1982. He likewise did a fine job of managing my asthma; however, back then my asthma was difficult to treat.

I had what was known back then as high-risk asthma. My doctor admitted he wasn't sure exactly how best to treat me, and referred me to a type of specialist called an allergist (see below). Both these doctors worked together to help me better manage my asthma symptoms.

Internist

Internists diagnose and manage health conditions in adults ages 18 and older. Some internists specialize in pulmonary medicine, meaning that they focus on treating lung conditions, including asthma.

An internist has done a great job managing my asthma for the past 20 years. He’s helped me identify new medications as they come on the market, some of which have been a huge boon to my asthma and helped me obtain good symptom management.

Many people with asthma are treated by pediatricians, family doctors or internists, but you may also be referred to one of the following specialists:

Pulmonologist

Pulmonologists diagnose and manage conditions of the lungs and respiratory system. Some focus on certain conditions such as:

  • COPD
  • pulmonary fibrosis
  • asthma

Others focus on people of certain ages, such as children or older adults.

I started seeing a pulmonologist when I was 25. He introduced me to some newer asthma medications, and also referred me to a new allergist. Together, my pulmonologist and allergist helped me better manage my asthma.

You may see a pulmonologist if your asthma isn’t well-managed or if you have unidentified asthma triggers.

Allergist or immunologist

Allergists treat allergies and asthma in people of all ages. An allergist can help to identify potential allergy and asthma triggers. Once your triggers are known, an allergist can help you develop strategies for managing them. This can help you to avoid asthma attacks and improve your overall symptom managment.

I was first referred to an allergist in 1980, when I was 10 years old. He performed a series of allergy tests and was able to identify a number of allergens that were also asthma triggers for me. Using this information, he taught my mother and me strategies for managing these triggers.

Allergies can change over time, though, so about 15 years later, I saw a new allergist to revisit those tests and learn more about new triggers and how to manage them.

Ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT)

ENT doctors manage conditions that affect the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck in people of all ages. They may manage your care if you’ve been diagnosed with other conditions such as:

Mom always said she could always find me by my trail of tissues. About 20 years ago, I was referred to an ENT who discovered that I had a deviated septum, at that time, my doctor explained that this may have been causing or exacerbating my severe rhinitis and sinusitis over the years. They recommended a treatment protocol that helped to relieve my sinus issues and improved my asthma management.

The takeaway

Getting diagnosed with asthma can feel overwhelming, but making sure you see the right healthcare provider can help you manage your symptoms.

However, if you’re concerned that your asthma symptoms are not well-managed, talk to your primary care doctor. They may be able to refer you to a specialist who can help you to better manage your triggers and symptoms.

For more information on how to manage asthma, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

Sources

NPS-US-NP-00484 SEPTEMBER 2019