An allergist/immunologist is a physician who has specialized training and
accreditation to evaluate, diagnose and treat individuals with allergies,
asthma and other disorders of the immune system.
After four years of medical school, an allergist must complete three years of
residency training in either internal medicine (adult medicine) or pediatrics. A
future allergist then needs to pass their board examinations in internal
medicine or pediatrics before undertaking an additional 2-3 years of fellowship
training in the specialty of allergy/immunology. An allergist becomes board
certified by passing a rigorous examination that covers both immunology and
clinical science. A board-certified allergist is trained in the evaluation and
management of both adult and pediatric patients.
Common medical conditions that allergists manage include environmental
allergies (hayfever), asthma, immunodeficiency, urticaria (hives), atopic
dermatitis (eczema), drug allergies, chronic cough, food allergies, insect
allergy and eosinophilic esophagitis. A board-certified allergist/immunologist
can dramatically improve the quality of life for patients with these conditions
resulting in decreased emergency room visits, acute doctor office visits and
days missed from school or work.
An allergist/immunologist will combine an in-depth interview, environmental
exposure history, and physical examination together with specific laboratory
tests to help arrive at a diagnosis. Common tests performed in an allergist’s
office includes allergen skin testing and spirometry which is a test to measure
lung function. A board-certified allergist will provide individualized treatment
plans focusing on environmental avoidance measures and prevention in addition to
medical treatment. Allergists are especially recognized for being the expert
provider of allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots and sublingual drops).
Allergen immunotherapy is the only active intervention that can alleviate
allergy or asthma symptoms without the use of medications.