HomeHealth TopicRespiratory

What Is a Pulmonologist?

Learn what a pulmonologist is and how they help diagnose and treat lung conditions, including breathing problems from COVID-19.

Lauren Smith, MAAlexandra Schwarz, MD
Written by Lauren Smith, MA | Reviewed by Alexandra Schwarz, MD
Updated on November 30, 2022

COVID-19 can affect many parts of the body, including the heart, blood vessels, muscles, and kidneys. However, the lungs often take the worst hit. If COVID-19 affects your lungs and respiratory tissue, you may need to work with a pulmonologist to get back to good health.

What is a pulmonologist?

Pulmonologists are physicians who specialize in the respiratory system, such as the lungs and airways. (The root word pulmo comes from the Latin word for “lung.”)

When a patient is having difficulty breathing, it’s a pulmonologist’s job to pinpoint what’s causing the problem. Is it a problem with the airways? Are the lungs struggling to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide? Is it inflammation?

An accurate diagnosis can guide treatment decisions to help you regain control of your breathing. For example, you might benefit from using an inhaler or oxygen therapy, or you might need pulmonary rehabilitation.

Who do they help?

Pulmonologists help anyone who is struggling with a lung or breathing problem. This includes people with:

  • Asthma

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder

  • Pulmonary fibrosis

  • Chronic cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Recurring bronchitis

  • Any illness or event that causes prolonged breathing problems, such as COVID-19

Pulmonologists and COVID-19

Many COVID-19 survivors have reported long-term symptoms of COVID-19. There’s still a lot to learn about COVID-19 “long haulers,” but it’s clear that prolonged shortness of breath—for weeks or even months after the virus has passed—is becoming more common.

For this reason, pulmonologists play an important role on the treatment team during and after COVID-19. Some patients, for example, may benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation with a pulmonologist or respiratory therapist after recovering from COVID-19. This can help them strengthen their breathing and improve their quality of life.

Moral of the story: There’s still a lot to learn about COVID-19 recovery, but it’s clear that pulmonologists will be vital in improving patients’ futures.


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American Lung Association. (2019). Know your providers: what does a pulmonologist do?

American Lung Association. (2022). The basics of pulmonary rehabilitation.

View All References (1)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). How to Protect Yourself and Others.

GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

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