5 Types of Asthma Doctors You Can See

And what to consider before you make an appointment

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Your Asthma Doctor- What Matters?. Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

Figuring out how to find a doctor for your asthma can seem challenging at first—after all, you want to make sure that you’re getting the best treatment possible while also staying within your geographic location as well as your insurance plan.

It’s important to recognize that the process of finding the right doctor isn’t accomplished in one step; it takes time, effort, and the willingness to search in more than one place to get what you need.

However, as long as you take the time to consider all of your options, you can find someone that fits your specific needs and is able to build a working relationship that will last for years to come.

5 Types of Asthma Doctors You Can See

There are several different types of asthma doctors available, which you can choose from based on the factors listed above:

1. Family Practice Physician or Internist

A family practice physician or internist is the first person that you should turn to if you are experiencing asthma-like symptoms but don’t yet have a diagnosis. That’s because he or she will be able to recognize the signs and help you receive preliminary treatment, while referring you to someone more specialized if further help is necessary. Most asthma can be managed by a family physician or other primary care physician such as an internist.

2. Pediatrician

For parents of children with asthma, a pediatrician (a doctor with special training in caring for children) is the first step to diagnosing and treating asthma.

Many family practice physicians also treat pediatric patients. Pediatricians can also conduct preliminary tests, make a diagnosis, and recommend treatment options, as well as refer children to more specialized doctors.

3. Pulmonologist

A  pulmonologist is a doctor who specializes in preventing, diagnosing and treating lung and respiratory illnesses, which includes asthma as well as other breathing conditions.

Pulmonologists will be able to perform more in depth testing when needed as well as give you a more comprehensive diagnosis than primary care physicians, due to their more specialized training in working with the lungs and respiratory system. A pulmonologist is either an adult or pediatric lung doctor.

4. Allergist and Immunologist

Allergists are commonly referred to people allergic asthma because they are specialists who study the way that the body reacts to allergens, and what can be done to prevent responses such as asthma attacks. An immunologist will help determine if your immune system is the cause of your asthma, or if you are instead experiencing nonallergic symptoms.

5. Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists, as opposed to the previous types of doctors listed, aren’t focused on medicating your asthma—although they also have special training in the lungs and respiratory system, their main goal is to understand airway and breathing problems that are caused by asthma and other disorders.

Respiratory therapists treat asthma through breathing exercises that help restore the normal function of your lungs. They also administer asthma treatments in a hospital setting as well as perform asthma education.

Where Can You Find These Doctors?

Now that you know what to look for in an asthma doctor, as well as what the different types of doctors are, you’re probably wondering where you should start looking. Thankfully, there are several different steps you can take to begin the search, as well as to finalize your arrangement and begin working with a doctor to treat your asthma.

It is important to consider, however, that you may not always find one doctor that will treat your asthma. For example, many people combine the services of an allergist, primary care physician and a respiratory therapist to take both a medicated and a more therapy-based approach to treating their symptoms. Therefore, consider that you may find more than one doctor when you’re looking for a specialist to help you with your asthma.

Where are some places you can look, or people you can ask for advice on how to find a doctor for your asthma? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Your family practice physician or pediatrician

One of the best places to start looking for asthma doctors is with your primary care physician (or, in the case of children with asthma, their designated pediatrician). That’s because he or she has numerous connections with specialists in your area, and will be able to recommend you to someone that can offer treatment. Even better, your physician or family doctor has experience with your medical history and understands the specifics of your condition, especially if you have other illnesses that need to be considered when treating your asthma; as a result, your recommended doctor will be even more personalized.

2. The Internet

Thanks to the power of the Internet, you have a wealth of information about asthma and asthma doctors at your fingertips. Simply typing in a search for asthma doctors in your area can yield numerous results that you can search through to find what you’re looking for. However, if you’re unsure where to begin, websites of prominent medical organizations are a commonly-used and reliable start. For example, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has a list of certified allergists on its website, which you can use to find specialists based on your geographic location.

3. Friends, family, and co-workers

One of the best ways to learn about helpful and reliable asthma doctors is through personal recommendations from people you know and trust; not only are they more likely to be located in the area in which you live, but you can also approach them with the confidence of someone whose parent, friend or colleague received beneficial care and treatment with that doctor. You can ask around your social and family circles for advice, but also be prepared with several criteria to specify what you are looking for: for example, let people know that you want a doctor who specializes in working with kids, for example.

6 Things to Consider Before Making Your Final Decision

So what goes into knowing how to find a doctor for your asthma? First, there are some factors that you need to consider.

1. Your age and gender

Although doctors are prepared to treat patients of all ages and genders, you may want to consider finding a doctor that is more specialized to fit your personal identity. For example, older asthma patients may look for doctors that are more experienced in working with the elderly, and parents of asthmatic children will want to have a pediatrician who specializes in working with kids as well as treating asthma.

You need to be comfortable with your doctor. Some people may be comfortable with a doctor of the same gender while others will not care. In all likelihood your doctors temperament, communication skills and approach to medicine are more likely to be factors you will make a decision on.

2. Your medical history

If you have other conditions besides your asthma, one of the factors to consider is whether you can find a doctor that has experience with those conditions and how they may affect your asthma. That’s because different illnesses in the body often affect each other, and a doctor that is well-versed only in one area may not be able to predict how a medication that he or she prescribes will affect the other conditions that you have. This is one of the advantages of having a primary care physician. A primary care physician is like the quarterback of your health care team.

3. The severity of your asthma

If you have a lower level of severity in your asthma, you may not need to look for a specialized asthma doctor, but simply someone who will be able to prescribe medication and help you learn how to manage your symptoms. However, if your asthma is more severe and interferes with your ability to live your daily life, you may want to turn to a specialist that will be able to help with particularly severe forms of asthma.

4. What kind of asthma you have

Depending on if you have allergic or nonallergic asthma, you will have to make a choice between the different doctors you are looking at. For example, an allergist may be the best choice for treating allergic asthma; however, nonallergic asthma patients can also look to primary care physicians who work with the respiratory system in general or specialists (pulmonologist) that treat only respiratory diseases.

5. Your geographic location

It seems like a no-brainer, but consider where you live - and whether you are willing to move somewhere else - when choosing an asthma doctor. One of the easiest ways to choose between doctors is to simply go with whichever one is geographically closer to you, and you can narrow down your choices significantly if you only search in the city that you live in or your immediate neighborhood. At the same time, if you have severe asthma and are looking for a specialist, you may want to expand your search across your state or even nationally - as long as you are willing to make the commitment to be closer to where that doctor is.

6. Your insurance plan

Money is always a restrictive factor when it comes to choosing a medical specialist, which is an unfortunate fact but one that you will have to deal with when looking for a doctor for your asthma. Your health insurance will cover both primary care practitioners and asthma specialists. Your plan may allow self referral to a specialist or it might require referral from your PCP.  You may also be faced with not being able to see a doctor of your choosing or having to pay out of pocket if the specialist you want to see does not accept your insurance.

Make sure that the doctor you have chosen will be covered under your insurance plan, and that you can move forward with treatment with the plan that you currently have. Part of this requires having previous knowledge of what your insurance company covers, and part of it means that you have to get on the phone and call an insurance agent to iron out the specifics of your policy.

At Your First Appointment

Have a conversation with the doctor. Make sure that you actually meet the doctor in person before you commit to anything; especially with a condition that is chronic like asthma, you want to know that if you went to the trouble of finding a specialist, that it is someone you are potentially planning on seeing for years to come. You want to verify that the doctor has your best interests at heart, that the two of you are able to get along as a doctor and patient, and that you are overall comfortable with the doctor’s level of expertise as well as his or her approach towards treating your asthma. And ultimately, if you don’t feel that it will work out, don’t feel afraid to say no—your personal health and wellbeing rises above any obligation you may feel to honor the recommendation of a friend or family physician.

Also, transfer your medical records. Once you have chosen a doctor for your asthma, transfer your medical records from any previous physicians you have had or medical facilities that you have stayed at, so that your new doctor can look your information over and consider the proper treatment options.


Alford G. When Do You Need an Asthma Specialist? Asthma Magazine. Volume 8. July-August 2003.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: May 25, 2016. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

Schatz M, Zeiger RS, Mosen D et. al. Improved asthma outcomes from allergy specialist care: A population-based cross-sectional analysis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 Dec;116(6):1307-13.

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