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Role of the Allergist / Immunologist

As a result of this extensive study and training, an Allergist is the most qualified medical professional to comprehensively and effectively manage the needs of patients with allergic diseases. Unlike a cold, allergic disease is not a condition that someone can just "get over." The help of an Allergist can reduce time missed from work or school due to allergic symptoms. Studies show that if you are under the care of an Allergist, you will also have fewer trips to the emergency room, and are better able to daily manage your allergies and asthma symptoms.

Allergists are trained to perform diagnostic tests and procedures specific to the needs of the allergy patient. These including blood and skin allergy testing, pulmonary functions testing, food and drug testing, drug desensitization, allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots) and other tests and procedures geared toward diagnosis and treatment for patients with allergic disease.  Allergists possess an in-depth understanding of allergic disease and are uniquely capable of managing recurrent, chronic conditions, including allergic rhinitis, urticaria (hives), angioedema (swelling around the lips and eyes), chronic cough, skin rashes, such as eczema, acute and chronic sinusitis (sometimes called hey fever), and diseases of the airway including asthma.

This page is intended to provide information on the role that an Allergist plays in the management and treatment of your condition:  How this type of specialist doctor can help you. An Allergist is a Physician who specializes in the treatment of patients with Asthma, Allergic Rhinitis, Hay Fever, Allergic Rashes and other allergic diseases.  If you have been diagnosed with one or other of these conditions, your primary care doctor may refer you to the Allergist.

Becoming an Allergist requires at least nine years of training.  These include four years of medical school, followed by at least three years of residency training in either internal medicine or pediatrics. Once physicians have finished training in one of these specialties, they must pass the exam of either the American Board of Internal Medicine or the American Board of Pediatrics. Internists or pediatricians who wish to focus on the subspecialty of allergy/immunology may then complete additional training, called a fellowship, which involves at least two years of study.  This is done in an allergy and immunology training program. After completing the fellowship training, the Allergist  must then pass another examination given by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

If you are enrolled in a managed care organization, your insurer will have a specific set of guidelines that help your primary care physician decide when to refer you to an Allergist. Once you are referred, the Allergist will work to accurately diagnose your condition by taking a thorough history, including information about your symptoms, family history, and home and work environments. Your Allergist will also conduct allergy skin testing and any other needed tests. Combining specific information from your history and tests, the Allergist will be able to make an accurate diagnosis. To help prevent symptoms, he or she will work with you to develop an appropriate management plan and will prescribe the most cost-effective treatment, including recommendations for particular medications and/or devices, and any needed environmental control measures. Your allergist/immunologist and allied health staff will not only prescribe medications and devices, but will also show you how and when to use them.

Role of the patient - communication

To ensure optimal care, you should take an active role in your  treatment by asking questions.  Learn about triggers of your condition, and understand the reasons for various methods of treatment. Open communication with your doctor is essential to successful  management of allergic disease. As a patient, you may want to ask these questions:

  • What does the diagnosis and treatment of my allergies and/or asthma entail? (please refer to our section on allergy testing to help you understand the diagnosis of allergic diseases and the underlying causes).
  • What are my treatment options? (please refer to our section on allergy shots and immunotherapy to help you understand some of your best treatment options).

You and your Allergist can work together so that you can make appropriate changes in your environment and take medications as prescribed. With appropriate diagnosis and effective management of your allergic disease, you should be able to experience the quality of life that you deserve!

Your allergist/immunologist can provide you with more information on the management and treatment of allergic disease.

The content of this page is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace evaluation by a physician. If you have questions or medical concerns, please contact your allergist/immunologist.

Copyright © 2008-2010 Dr. Beth Cowan