Asthma is a variable condition. In other words, it can vary over time, under different circumstances and for different individuals. Because of this, your doctor will create a customized treatment plan that fits your particular needs, lifestyle and triggers, as well as the frequency and intensity of your symptoms.
This plan may include referrals to other healthcare professionals – individuals who can help you with specific aspects of asthma treatment and management.
Your family doctor is an essential part of your healthcare team. He or she is familiar, not just with how asthma affects you, but also with your medical history and overall state of health.
Under certain circumstances, your doctor may refer you to a specialist. If, for example, your asthma is associated with allergies, you might be referred to an allergist. If you need help learning how to manage your asthma, you may be referred to an asthma educator. If you have difficulty managing asthma, you may be referred to a respirologist.
Whatever course of action of your doctor decides on, he or she will monitor the outcomes of your referrals. That way, you and your doctor can keep “the big picture” in mind while determining how well all the elements of your asthma management are working.
Visiting Your Family Doctor
A visit to your family doctor is an opportunity, not just to get a medical check-up, but also to create or adjust your asthma management program.
During an appointment, tell your doctor about your:
- Recent asthma symptoms, and note whether they’ve changed since your last visit
- Peak flow meter readings to monitor your lung function
- Medications, and discuss whether they need to be changed or whether their dosages need to be adjusted
Also, ask your doctor to review your inhaler technique and discuss with your doctor whether you should see a specialist.
Another way to prepare for your visits is to complete, print out and bring along our simple quiz, How Much is Too Much?
Certified Respiratory Educator
A Certified Respiratory Educator (CRE) is a healthcare professional, usually a respiratory therapist, nurse or pharmacist, who has completed a special asthma education program that includes written exams.
If you are unable to locate a CRE in your community, call your local hospital and ask to speak with a respiratory therapist. He or she will watch your inhaler technique and give you tips on how to best manage your asthma.
Certification for asthma educators is administered by the Canadian Network for Respiratory Care. You can find CREs in doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies. Their training allows them to create personalized education and lifestyle-modification programs for individuals with asthma.
Asthma & Allergy HelpLine
Asthma Canada has a team of CREs located across Canada who are available to provide you with support and education through our Asthma & Allergy HelpLine. Meet our team of Certified Respiratory Educators.
Have questions? Call our Asthma & Allergy HelpLine at 1-866-787-4050 to speak with a Certified Respiratory Educator.
Visiting an Asthma Educator
A certified asthma educator (CAE) is not just an expert in asthma. He or she has training in teaching methods. That means a CAE has learned the best ways to explain different aspects of asthma treatment and management and can assist you in using these skills in your daily life.
A CAE can help you learn:
- Whether your inhaler medication technique is correct. Additionally, he or she can assess which device is best for you
- How to create an Asthma Action Plan
- How to reduce exposure to your asthma triggers
Preparing for Your Appointments
You can get the most out of your time with your doctor or CAE/CRE by planning carefully before you go.
Things you can do to prepare for your appointments include bringing:
- A list of your most recent symptoms, including notes about whether they’ve changed since your last visit
- A record of your recent peak flow meter readings or symptom diary records
- Your Asthma Action Plan so that you and your doctor can develop a plan. If you already have one, then bring it in case it needs to be modified
- Your inhaler(s) to review your technique
- A list of any questions you have
Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) or Registered Respiratory Care Practitioner (RRCP)
A registered respiratory therapist (RRT/RRCP) has been specially trained to treat people who have problems breathing. If an asthma episode requires you to go to a hospital, an RRT/RRCP may be among the team of professionals helping you there. He or she can assist in stabilizing a person who’s having an asthma attack, administer inhaled medications and conduct lung-function tests. RRT/RRCPs also provide training and education to people with asthma.
A respiratory nurse is a nurse who has undergone additional training in pulmonary (lung) health. Respiratory nurses can be found in doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics and health departments, assist in the treatment of people with asthma, and also provide training and education.
A pharmacist is a great source of information and education for anyone. If you have concerns about medication you’ve been prescribed, your local pharmacist is generally easier to reach than your family doctor, and is always happy to answer questions. He or she can also demonstrate the correct techniques for using inhaler medicines and check your own techniques to make sure you’re taking them correctly.
A respirologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the study of lung diseases and related conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease.
An allergist is a medical doctor who has specialized in the study of allergies and the conditions associated with them, including asthma.
If you have been referred to an allergist, he or she will probably administer a series of tests to determine exactly what substances or conditions you’re allergic to. Once those allergens have been identified, your allergist can recommend specific treatments for your symptoms, and advise you on how best to avoid allergens in your day-to-day life.