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This information was reviewed and approved by Flavia Hoyte, Flavia Cecilia Lega Hoyte, MD (2/6/2023).

Asthma symptoms can develop at any time. The amount of difficulty a person has with asthma often changes with age. The airways of an infant/toddler can become obstructed more easily because of their smaller size. This age group can be prone to more noticeable symptoms. As the child’s airways grow larger, these symptoms can decrease in some cases, but this is not always the case.

Most people do not experience long-term physical effects of asthma. However, for children, chronic and poorly controlled asthma with need for frequent oral steroids may have a slowing effect on growth and may result in reduced lung function as an adult. As with any chronic illness, there may be an emotional impact on adults and children with asthma. Emotions such as anger, fear, inferiority, depression and guilt may be experienced.

The first step in asthma diagnosis is a good evaluation. In many cases, an asthma diagnosis is based upon your history and symptoms at the time of evaluation. Family history should also be considered during an asthma test, as a positive family history increases a person's chances of developing asthma.

Types of Asthma Tests

Tests to evaluate breathing:

  • Detailed medical history and physical exam
  • Breathing tests called spirometry
  • Chest X-rays

Tests to diagnose asthma:

Tests to help manage other conditions that can worsen asthma (allergies, reflux, chronic sinus disease, airway aspiration and other causes of exercise intolerance):


When to See a Specialist

Many people see their family doctor or internal medicine doctor for asthma care. If you have an asthma diagnosis, you and your doctor may choose to have you see a specialist, such as an allergist/immunologist or pulmonologist (lung specialist).

We recommend being seen by an allergist/immunologist or pulmonologist if you experience any one of the following:

  • Severe asthma attack
  • A visit to the hospital or emergency room in the last year
  • Conditions that complicate asthma, such as chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps or vocal cord dysfunction
  • Frequent treatment with steroid injections, tablets or syrup
  • Confusion about your diagnosis
  • Allergies as a possible contributing factor
  • Asthma that seems to be getting worse
  • Poor response or intolerance of your medications


Questions for Your Health Care Provider

No matter what type of doctor you establish a partnership with to provide your asthma care, it is important to ask the following questions:

  • What is the doctor's overall philosophy about asthma treatment?
  • Does the doctor or office staff take time to explain what is happening with you, provide education and answer your questions?
  • What can you do to treat an asthma attack before you call the doctor?
  • Who (specialist, non-specialist or an associate) will work with you to treat an asthma attack?
  • Who is responsible for adjusting steroid doses?

In evaluating your progress, remember that asthma is a chronic condition that will change course from time to time. If you feel that you are not making progress with your current treatment, talk with your doctor about your concerns. If things are not going well, ask your doctor to recommend a specialist. You should not feel embarrassed about asking for another opinion.

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