What Is An Allergist?

Al-ler-gist / Im-mu-nol-o-gist

A doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) who has been specially trained to diagnose and treat allergic or immune disorders.

Scope of Care Provided by the Allergist-Immunologist

The allergist-immunologist diagnoses and treats medical conditions related to abnormalities of the body's immune systems, particularly disturbances that result in inflammation of the skin or respiratory system. Such disturbances can produce symptoms ranging in severity from minor discomfort to life-threatening difficulty in breathing or fighting infection. Hay fever, asthma, eczema, hives, food and drug sensitivity, respiratory problems caused by environmental factors and physical reactions to bee stings or contact with plants are all health problems commonly treated by the allergist-immunologist.

The allergist-immunologist is skilled in developing a thorough medical history and in performing a detailed physical examination that concentrates on regions of the body frequently affected by allergic or immunologic disorders. On the basis of a carefully compiled medical history and physical exam, the allergist-immunologist can order a specially selected series of specific tests that can be used to determine how to safely and effectively treat the individual patient. Drug therapy, avoidance of allergic irritants and, in some cases, supplementation of the body's naturally produced immune agents are the most commonly used treatments of allergic or immune disorders.


Why Seek the Care of an Allergist-Immunologist?

The allergist-immunologist's specialized training provided the capability to combine a wide variety of diagnostic techniques to accurately determine the scope and severity of the patient's allergic or immunologic problems. Some of these techniques are quite simple, while others are very elaborate. The allergist-immunologist uses them selectively to determine the precise causes of the patient's health problems. The allergist-immunologist's skilled application and interpretation of diagnostic tests is the key to development of a safe, efficacious treatment program for the individual patient.

You may need to consult an allergist-immunologist if you suffer from:

  • recurrent or chronic sneezing, nasal congestion or runny nose
  • redness, itchiness and watering of the eyes
  • persistent coughing
  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • skin rashes, hives or swelling
  • strong adverse reaction to bee stings
  • discomfort of the eyes, nose or respiratory system when working
  • nasal polyps
  • drug or food allergies
  • sinus infections and sinus headaches

Education and Training

  • College: 4 years
  • Medical School: 4 year
  • Internship and Residency: 3 years, concentrating in a medical specialty such as pediatrics or internal medicine
  • Fellowship: 2 years, receiving specialty training in allergy and immunology exclusively

What is an Allergy?

An allergy can be a skin rash that develops when a person has touched a certain substance, hay fever when pollen is in the air, or stomach cramps after eating particular foods. These ailments are all caused by allergic reactions to various substances.


What is Asthma?

Asthma is a disease affecting the airways that carry air into and out of the lungs. During normal breathing, airways to the lungs are fully open, allowing air to move freely. People with asthma have inflamed, super sensitive airways that, when triggered, become more inflamed and produce mucus, which clogs the airways and the muscles around the airways tighten (bronchospasm).

Anyone can get asthma. It usually occurs in children by the age of 5 and adults in their 30s although 10 percent of new asthma cases are diagnosed in people who are 65 years or older.

Symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness or the production of a lot of mucus


What Causes Asthma?

Some of the most common triggers (triggers are things that bring on an asthma episode) are:

  • Allergens such as dust mites, pollens, molds, and pet dander
  • Respiratory infections such as colds, flu, sore throat, and sinus infections
  • Irritants in the air, smoke and strong odors
  • Exercise, because it makes you breath harder
  • Weather — dry wind, cold air, and/or sudden changes in weather
  • Expressing strong emotions