Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects about 25 million people in the US. It can be hard to know where to go when you suffer from asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Should you see an allergist or a pulmonologist for your asthma? Let’s explore this question in more detail! Both allergists and pulmonologists treat asthmatic patients, so how do you know which one to see? 

Differences Between a Pulmonologist and an Allergist

Should I see an allergist or a pulmonologist for my asthma? Asking this question about what causes asthma can help determine which specialist might have expertise that would help you. A doctor specializing in allergies is called an allergist, while one who focuses specifically on lung problems and other conditions related to respiratory is known as a pulmonologist. It’s essential that you find out their specialty to determine best which type of specialist would be most appropriate for your needs.

What is an Allergist?

Allergists specialize in treating allergies and related conditions such as hay fever (seasonal allergy) and skin reactions. An allergist would typically perform allergy testing and possibly provide immunotherapy shots for those with allergies. Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses injections of small doses of allergen to reduce the body’s immune response to it, which can eventually lead to fewer allergic symptoms. An allergist may also prescribe medications like corticosteroids or antihistamines as needed. For people living with chronic asthma, an allergist may offer further insight on how specific environmental factors might affect health in terms of mold, dust mites, pets at home, and food sensitivities.

What is a Pulmonologist?

Pulmonologists or pulmonary doctors diagnose and treat diseases of the lungs; they specialize in pulmonary problems like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), lung cancer, and sleep disorders while providing care for any other respiratory diseases. Pulmonologists can also prescribe medications for asthma, such as bronchodilators and inhaled steroids. However, they may be more inclined to recommend other treatments like a change in lifestyle or the use of an environmental air cleaner, depending on your circumstances. They also may prescribe medications for patients with kidney or liver disease because these conditions put them at risk of developing blood clots when taking certain drugs typically prescribed for lung conditions.

How They Treat Their Patients

Pulmonary doctors treat their patients using diagnostic tests like CT scans or X-rays to learn about any underlying conditions affecting them—for example, pulmonary disease due to asthma—while allergists are usually diagnosed based on symptoms alone (e.g., excessive sneezing). Pulmonologists may also prescribe medications that target drugs given by allergy specialists.

If you have a chronic condition like asthma that doesn’t respond to any treatments, and your doctor suspects allergies may be the culprit, then an allergist will probably be able to help more than a pulmonologist would. On the other hand, if you’re experiencing symptoms like frequent coughing or wheezing and excess phlegm or sputum, there’s typically the little point in seeing an allergist for treatment because their methods are less effective when relieving these types of problems quickly. In this case, see a pulmonologist.

Pulmonologists are the experts of emergency asthma situations, so if you find yourself in one and go to a hospital, they will be more than happy to help. After your treatment is complete, both allergists and pulmonologists will likely work together collaboratively with an individualized approach for identifying possible triggers!

What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?

Asthma is considered a chronic illness that affects the airways. It can be triggered by allergies, exercise, cold weather, or pollution.

Symptoms of asthma can vary from person to person, but they usually include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing (breathing often feels difficult or labored)
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Coughing and spasms in the muscles around your abdomen, ribs, or throat.
  • A persistent cough
  • Chest pain (particularly with deep breaths)
  • Wheezing sounds when inhaling or exhaling (usually caused by narrowed airways).

You should contact your doctor if you experience any of these signs for more than two days in a row, as it could signify an emergency situation.

What causes allergy-related asthma?

Allergies cause inflammation to occur inside the lungs, which makes asthmatic patients have trouble clearing their throat and congestion due to swollen membranes blocking up the passageways of air.

We recommend that you see an allergist if your asthma is uncontrolled despite using inhaled medications. Some people with severe, poorly controlled asthma also need a pulmonologist to help them manage their condition.

When Should I See an Allergist or a Pulmonologist for My Asthma?

It’s a good idea to see an allergist if you have allergies that affect your asthma symptoms—let them know which medications work best for you, what triggers your allergy (such as pollen), and how often they occur. If your doctor has suggested seeing a pulmonologist, this is typical because of something other than allergic disease affecting both lungs, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, or lung cancer. If you have COPD or some other respiratory illness, then it’s best for you to consult with your doctor about what type of specialist would be best suited for treating your specific needs. Ultimately, seeing both may be beneficial in order to get all of the information needed!

It’s essential to find the proper treatment for your asthma so it doesn’t bother you anymore. Call today to schedule an appointment with one of Hunterdon Pulmonary & Sleep Associates board-certified pulmonologists in Flemington, New Jersey, and see what they have to say about how we can help. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

If there are any other questions on this topic, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at (908) 237-1560 or email info@HunterdonPulmonaryandSleep.com and we’ll be happy to answer them!