In most cases, asthma can be diagnosed and managed by your family doctor or paediatrician in primary care. However, in some cases, referral to a specialist may be needed. Availability of specialists, and the type of specialist, may differ between different countries.
The doctor may decide to refer you to a specialist if
- There are doubts about diagnosis
- There is a doubt about priorities for treatment in presence of multiple conditions, particularly COPD and asthma
- You have asthma that developed at work or that is worse at your place of work
- You experience frequent asthma attacks or need for prednisone despite using controller inhalers
- You needed to go to the emergency department
- You experienced a life-threatening attack and needed referral to the intensive care unit
- You had an anaphylactic reaction
- You have suspected or confirmed food allergy
- Your asthma is severe or difficult-to-treat
- You have suspected side effects of asthma treatment
- You have had asthma attacks after taking medications like aspirin or ibuprofen
- In young children, visiting a specialist may be advisable to monitor side effects and in case of respiratory symptoms in pre-term born children, or if the child is failing to grow properly
You may also feel the need to see a specialist, for instance to receive more specific advice on how to better manage your asthma. It is advisable that you discuss it with your referring doctor as he or she might help you find out how to get better advice.
Pharmacists and nurses are also important for asthma management. Pharmacists can provide precious advice on how to organise your treatment schedule and how to use your inhaler. Nurses can provide inhaler technique training and can answer your doubts about how to avoid triggers.
Which specialist should I see for asthma? Allergologist vs pulmonologist
You may have difficulties in deciding who to consult, a pulmonologist or an allergologist, because they both treat asthma. In that case, you should consider what type of asthma you may have. Is your asthma triggered by environmental factors such as pet dander, pollutants or mould? If so, an allergologist may be the right choice. Alternatively, if your asthma is caused by other factors like stress, exercise or other respiratory illnesses, then a pulmonologist may be a better choice.
Please note that healthcare systems vary a lot across countries. The information above should be considered general advice. If you have any doubts about asthma care, we suggest you check with your healthcare provider or with your local asthma patients’ association.