When asthma is severe, it may not be best to allow a general practitioner or pediatrician to handle the matter. Instead, people may look for an asthma specialist to address this issue, and there are several medical specialists that might fall under this designation. One of these is the pulmonologist, who has special training in diseases affecting the lungs and respiratory tract, and another potential specialist that could address some asthma issues is an allergist, if allergies are the principal cause of asthma attacks.
Choosing an asthma specialist could take some consideration of causes of asthma, which aren’t always known. General doctors may have helped patients identify certain triggers. If these are primarily allergy based, the recommendation may be to undergo allergy shots. Yet other conditions can cause asthma too, and these things could suggest the help of a pulmonologist instead.
Some things people will need to consider first when choosing an asthma specialist is where to find these doctors. Even in small communities, it can be pretty easy to find allergists. Pulmonologists, especially pediatric pulmonologists, may be a little more difficult to locate. If one is not available locally, people should look at urban areas nearby that have children’s hospitals, for pediatric specialists, or that have medical schools. It might mean a little travel, but in many big hospitals specialists also travel and may run clinics in smaller communities within a certain distance.
Choice should also take into account insurance coverage. People should check with insurers against specialists’ names they find to determine what insurance coverage is available. Specialists tend to cost more and they run more complicated testing, so this factor can be very important for anyone without an extremely large income. In some countries this is a non-issue due to government provided healthcare.
Another way of figuring out what asthma specialist to see has to do with recommendations from primary care physicians. Since they routinely refer patients to specialists for more extensive care, doctors may have one or two names in mind already. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for those names before a physician actually refers or to suggest it’s time for a referral. If a primary doctor will not give this, consider seeing another physician who will, particularly if asthma treatment has not been effective.
Ideally, an asthma specialist should be close by and have convenient hours, but this really depends on the specialist’s location, and, as mentioned, not all are near to home. What a distant specialist should be able to do is work closely with the primary care doctor, informing him/her of all decisions, treatments, and treatment outcomes. If a pulmonologist or allergist doesn’t seem to be a good communicator, it may be wise to choose someone else who is. Good care depends on a cohesive approach to treatment where all members of the care team are informed and involved appropriately.
An additional thing people may want to check are credentials of any proposed specialists. This may be unnecessary when doctors are working in association with large hospitals. If they work privately, some people recommend verifying their board certification. It is fairly easy to look up standing with a particular board.
Finally, choosing a doctor should be based on comfort level. Does the specialist appropriately communicate and involve the person in treatment decisions? Degree of bedside manner may be a consideration, though not all people need doctors to represent a lot of care and attention, and would instead simply prefer them to be professional and competent. It is possible to get competency and caring in the same asthma specialist, and looking for just this type may be of value to some patients.