Among Americans with severe asthma, a condition that disproportionately affects Blacks, less than half see a specialist to manage their condition, research shows.
Only 38% of severe asthma patients saw an allergist/immunologist or a pulmonologist at least once in the year before or after the first observation of severe asthma, the investigators found.
Why you should see an asthma specialist
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends patients with severe asthma be referred to a specialist for evaluation and care.
“Specialist care is important for managing any condition, especially a chronic one such as severe asthma,” lead author Dr. Jessica Most, a pulmonologist at Jefferson Health/National Jewish Health, in Philadelphia says.
After a specialist visit, asthma attacks were much lower (about 38% versus 49%). Hospitalizations, emergency department visits and use of rescue inhalers also were lower for patients during the 12 months after their first visit to a specialist, the study found.
The greatest predictors for a specialist visit were higher numbers of asthma attacks, younger age, and having severe asthma identified in a recent year.
The benefits of seeing an asthma specialist include:
- They can provide the latest asthma research
- They can provide the latest asthma medications and help you understand their use
- They are up to date on the standards and advances in asthma care
When do you need an asthma specialist?
While a mild case with obvious triggers that responds well to medication may not require a visit to a specialist, you should consider a specialist if you are experiencing the following:
- A life-threatening asthma attack, intubation, or admission to a hospital or intensive care unit for asthma
- Poorly controlled asthma despite three to six months of consistent treatment
- Are interested in allergy shots to help control asthma triggered by allergens
- Worsening asthma despite using oral steroids
- Moderate persistent or more severe asthma
- Need asthma education
- Need more diagnostic testing such as a challenge test, skin test, or lung function test
- Have asthma symptoms or responses to treatment that aren’t typical
- May have cough-variant asthma, occupational asthma, nocturnal asthma, or exercise-induced asthma
Types of asthma specialists
Pulmonologists specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating lung and respiratory illnesses for a number of conditions. These conditions include: