Can a Pediatrician Care for My Child's Asthma?

What Type of Doctors Care for Asthma in Kids?

Pediatrician talking to patient and mother
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If you need a primary care physician to follow your child’s asthma and help get their asthma symptoms under control, you may want to consider seeing a pediatrician.

What Is a Pediatrician?

Pediatricians are known as “baby doctors” or “doctors for kids.” A pediatrician provides care in the hospital, outpatient clinic, or both. Some pediatricians may be a “hospitalist” and only practice in the inpatient setting. Other pediatricians may only practice in the outpatient setting.

In addition to caring for asthma and other respiratory diseases like RSV or pneumonia, pediatricians provide comprehensive and hopefully coordinated care across all spectrums of pediatric illness including mental health screenings, wellness screening, and preventive care. A pediatrician may perform a preoperative evaluation for a surgical colleague if your asthmatic child needs surgery or take care of your child postoperatively either in the hospital or provide follow-up care.

After medical school, pediatricians complete a general pediatric residency over 3 years and must pass an exam sponsored by the American Board of Pediatrics to become board certified.

Some pediatricians may pursue advanced training in the respiratory field. In order to become a pediatric pulmonologist or respiratory care specialist, a physician must first complete a pediatric residency and then complete an additional 3 years of training and take more tests.

What Diseases Does a Pediatrician Treat?

A pediatrician treats many many different conditions and problems. In addition to asthma, your pediatrician probably treats many of the following diseases:

What Are the Advantages of Being Treated by a Pediatrician?

Hopefully, your pediatrician will lead you to better asthma control. Having a pediatrician responsible for your child’s primary care is beneficial for a number of reasons including:

  • One doctor who can not only treat your child’s asthma but also treat most any pediatric medical problem and address any developmental concern.
  • Consulting a pulmonary specialist and making appropriate referrals based on your child’s needs and who you are likely to interact with best as a parent.
  • Providing consultation, explanation, and guidance after receiving recommendations from a specialist.
  • Providing screening and treatment for other medical conditions as appropriate.

When Do I Need a Pulmonary Specialist?

Most pediatricians can treat uncomplicated or even moderately complicated asthma. They will effectively treat your child’s asthma up to a point. A referral to an asthma specialist like an allergist or pulmonologist is appropriate when your child:

Patients may not always be referred appropriately. Sometimes your doctor may just need to be nudged. If you think you might benefit from subspecialty care do not be afraid to ask. Some doctors may not be up to date with the latest recommendations for when a referral is appropriate.

Do Specialist Provide Better Care Than Pediatricians?

The answer will probably depend on who you ask. Some research evidence demonstrates that there are small but measurable differences. If you fit into any of the previously mentioned scenarios or just want a specialist’s opinion, you should discuss a referral with your pediatrician.

Can an Internist or Family Medicine Doctor Treat My Child?

Pediatrics is not a large part of training in general internal medicine. While most internists will probably be comfortable treating adolescents, this is not universal. Family medicine doctors, on the other hand, have several months of pediatric training in their 3-year residency. However, some family medicine specialists incorporate a lot of pediatrics into their training while others incorporate very little.

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