When to See a Specialist?
Asthma is a complex, ever–changing condition that requires constant attention. If you or your child continue to experience symptoms that disrupt sleep or everyday activities, even after strictly following your Asthma Action Plan, then a visit to a specialist is in order.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) asthma guidelines recommend seeing a specialist if any of the following apply:
- You have had a life-threatening asthma episode.
- You are not responding to treatment after 3-6 months.
- You have persistent asthma symptoms, limited physical activity and frequent flares.
- You need continuous high-dose inhaled corticosteroids or more than two courses of oral corticosteroids in one year.
- You need additional testing like allergy tests, complete spirometry breathing tests, rhinoscopy (looks into nasal passages and sinuses) or bronchoscopy (looks into the lungs).
- You are being considered for immunotherapy (allergy shots).
- You have conditions that complicate your asthma or diagnosis, such as severe hay fever, sinusitis, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) or exercise-related breathing problems.
- You require additional education on complications of therapy or allergen avoidance at home, school or work.
For children, NIH guidelines say toddlers under age 3 who require daily anti-inflammatory medicine should see a specialist, and those under 4 with symptoms three or more days a week and two or more nights a month should consider seeing one.
When looking for a specialist, check to see if the doctor is board certified in the field. Board certification is a voluntary process that indicates a physician is going above and beyond licensing requirements – it shows a commitment to continually expanding knowledge in a medical specialty, according to the American Board of Medical Specialties.
Specialists who treat asthma & allergies
Allergist/Immunologist: Specializes in diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma and immune disorders, including allergy testing and immunotherapy. Usually the first specialist to see, since allergies are a common trigger of asthma symptoms.
Pulmonologist: Specializes in diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases; often treats asthma complicated by colds, flu and pneumonia.