Choosing an Asthma Doctor: What You Need To Know

How to find an asthma specialist that meets your needs

Pediatrician explaining inhaler to patient and mother. Hero Images/Getty Images

To manage a chronic illness such as asthma, it's important to establish a trusting, comfortable relationship with a doctor who is experienced in treating patients with the disease. Choosing an asthma doctor should be done with care but it's not always so easy to do.

There are many types of doctors who can treat asthma, including general practitioners, pediatricians, and internists. Allergists, immunologists, and pulmonologists have also received special training in the immune system and in treating allergies and respiratory diseases, so they are particularly skilled in diagnosing and treating asthma.

As a rule, allergists have more experience than other doctors in treating asthma. The majority of people with asthma also have allergies that can trigger an asthma attack. Selecting a doctor who can identify these allergies and offer tips on how to control them can also mean better control of the disease.

How to Find an Asthma Specialist

Asthma patients who are already under the care of a general practitioner or internist, but who would also like to consult with a specialist can ask their doctor for a referral. Primary care doctors can recommend a specialist who can test for allergies and work with the patient to better control both allergies and asthma.

Another good way to find a doctor is by asking others who they go to and who they like, especially others who also have asthma. It may be helpful to collect the names of several doctors, in case the one selected is unavailable or does not participate in certain health care plans.

Once asthma and allergies are in check, the frequency of visits to the allergist may decrease. For more help in finding an asthma specialist, call a nearby hospital, medical school or physician referral service. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology is another resource for finding a board-certified asthma specialist.

What You Need to Know When Choosing an Asthma Doctor

In addition to personal and professional recommendations, other things to consider when choosing a doctor include:

  • Insurance coverage – What healthcare insurance plans does the doctor accept?
  • Accreditation and board certification – Is the doctor accredited and board certified in an asthma-related specialty?
  • Location and hours – Is the doctor's office close to work and/or home? Are the hours convenient? Is the office open in the evenings and on weekends?
  • Availability – Who is able to see the patients if the doctor is not available? Is there always someone on call in the event of an emergency?
  • Doctor's personality – Does the doctor communicate well, listen carefully, answer questions and clearly explain things?
  • Courtesy of office staff – Is the office staff courteous, patient and friendly?
  • Waiting time – Are there any delays from the time you call to set up an appointment until the time you actually get to see the doctor? Is the doctor timely with your appointments or is there a long waiting time?

When choosing a doctor for a child with asthma, you'll also want to take into consideration how well the doctor interacts with your child. The doctor should be able to make your child feel comfortable, while and talking to them in a way that they can understand and respond.

Once an asthma doctor has been selected, make preparations for the first appointment by writing down any questions beforehand. In addition, bring a list of all medicines that the child is currently taking, including medications prescribed by a doctor and any over-the-counter medicines and vitamins. Also, bring past medical records or have them sent from any previous medical offices; note that there may be a fee for this service.

During the initial visit, the physician will begin a chart that will likely include a comprehensive medical history, and the doctor will conduct a physical examination, which may include allergy tests and asthma tests. Be sure to tell the doctor about any past allergic reactions. Ask the doctor to clarify any remaining questions about their practice.

Evaluate the first appointment and comfort level with the doctor before continuing with care. It is important to build a strong doctor-patient relationship. Controlling asthma means working together to establish and maintain good health. Finding a doctor who can help accomplish this is an important part of the process.

View Article Sources
  • National Institutes on Aging. U.S. National Institutes of Health. 
  • Choosing a Doctor or Healthcare Service. Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. 
  • Choosing an Asthma Doctor. 2005. Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America.