Your healthcare providers will diagnose and create a plan to manage your asthma. The key members of your asthma care team include your doctor and pharmacist. Other members of your care team may include your Certified Respiratory Educator (CRE) and respiratory therapist. Your doctor may also refer you to an allergist to find out if you have any allergies and what your allergic triggers are.
Always talk honestly with your healthcare providers about your asthma control and any problems or concerns you have.
Your family doctor is an essential part of your healthcare team. They are familiar, not just with how asthma affects you, but also with your medical history and overall state of health.
Your family doctor may send you to a specialist if:
- You are still having problems with your asthma even though you are taking your medications as directed
- Your asthma may be caused by your home or work environment (occupational asthma); skin testing can help identify potential allergic triggers
- You have been admitted to hospital for your asthma
- You are experiencing side effects from your asthma medication
For example, if 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 Certified Respiratory Educator. If you have difficulty managing asthma, you may be referred to a respirologist.
Whatever course of action of your doctor decides on, they 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:
- A list of your recent asthma symptoms, including notes whether they’ve changed since your last visit
- Peak flow meter readings to monitor your lung function, and or symptom diary records
- Medications, and discuss whether they need to be changed or whether their dosages need to be adjusted
- 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
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. They 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 personalized support and education through our Asthma & Allergy HelpLine.
Have questions? Call our Asthma & Allergy Helpline at 1-866-787-4050 or email email@example.com 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
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. They 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. They 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.
Find An Asthma Clinic Near You
Our free clinic locator tool can help you find the asthma clinic nearest you.
Asthma & Allergy HelpLine
Do you have questions about asthma? Contact our free helpline service to be connected with a Certified Respiratory Educator who can provide you with personalized support.
If you think you may have asthma, your first step should be to speak with your healthcare provider. You can learn more about proper diagnosis here.
Breathe Easy: Diagnosis
Download a copy of our Breathe Easy Booklet Series on asthma diagnosis. It discusses proper diagnosis and testing, and answers common questions about asthma. It also includes a checklist of questions that you may want to discuss with your doctor. [Click here to download in French]