What is an Allergist?
An allergist is a doctor who is trained to treat allergies and allergic diseases. They are considered specialists and usually study for at least nine years to complete the courses needed to graduate. An allergy is an abnormal reaction to a substance or environmental trigger. Allergists determine what substances or triggers cause reactions in each individual and look for ways to treat those allergies, so the sufferer can go on to live a normal life
How does a doctor become an Allergist?
A person who wishes to become an allergist must first graduate medical school. They must then attend internal medicine training for three years. Once they graduate, they must pass the American Board of Internal Medicine board exam. Next, they must complete a two-year fellowship in the subspecialty of allergy-immunology.
What are the common diseases treated by an Allergist?
Allergist-immunologists treat a variety of allergy-related diseases. They work to determine what causes the reaction and what in the immune system is making that person react. Some of these diseases include:
- Hay fever
- Chronic respiratory infections
- Skin infections
- Chronic digestion issues
- Food allergies
- Animal allergies
What are the diagnostic tests and procedures ordered by an Allergist?
- Skin Testing: These tests involve exposing the skin to different substances and then checking the reactions during different times. These tests work best for skin allergies but can be used to test other allergies, as well.
- IgE Tests: These tests look for identifying IgE antibodies to specific antigens that can trigger allergies.
- Lung Function Tests: Allergists might test the lungs to see if they are functioning properly or if an allergy or allergy-related disease might be causing issues.
- Food Challenges: Foods are introduced to individuals, and they are monitored to see if they have a reaction to that food. New foods are introduced every few months, and the allergist learns which foods are safe for the patient and which ones aren’t.
- Medication Challenge: These tests work like food challenges only they are conducted on people who are allergic to medications. Small doses of medication are administered, and the patient is monitored to see if there is a reaction.
- Patch Testing: This test is performed on people who suffer from contact dermatitis. Patches of the skin are introduced to various triggers to see how the patient reacts.
What are the different types of allergists?
There are many different types of allergies, and there are allergists that are trained to treat each type. Some are trained to treat many different types. Some of the different types of allergists include:
- Allergist-Immunologists: These allergists look for immune problems that could be causing severe reactions to allergens. They also look at which allergens can affect the immune system.
- Dermatologists: Dermatologists treat allergies that affect the skin, hair, and nails.
- Otolaryngologists: Otolaryngologists treat allergies related to the ears, nose, throat, and sinuses.
How do Allergists treat allergies?
Allergists use a variety of different methods to treat allergies. Treatments are based on the type of allergy, the severity of the allergy, and the overall health of the patient. Some common allergy treatments include:
- Avoidance: Allergists will suggest that patients avoid the trigger and allergens until they can be maintained and controlled successfully.
- Medications: Once the allergist understands the patient’s allergies, he or she can write prescriptions for medications. Most medications are taking orally. For some skin allergies, an allergist might prescribe topical creams.
- Immunotherapy: Severe allergies or allergies that are not controlled with medication might require immunotherapy. Doctors inject allergy extracts into the body every few years to help the body learn how to react to these allergens properly. In some cases, tablets can be used instead of injections.
- Emergency epinephrine: In the event of a severe allergic reaction, an EpiPen or a dose of epinephrine can be given to the patient to prevent anaphylactic shock and save their lives. People who have severe allergies often keep an EpiPen on them and can even inject themselves if necessary.
When should you see an Allergist?
Some people don’t realize they have allergies unless they are severe. Many people notice rashes or other reactions but don’t relate them to allergies. Often, they see a doctor for a symptom of allergies and are referred to an allergist. Some reasons to see an allergist include:
- Chronic respiratory infections
- Sore throat
- Sinus problems
- Reactions to insect bites or stings
- Feeling sick after eating certain foods
- Having severe side effects after taking medications
AAAAI: The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America