What an Allergist Can Do for Your Child

An allergist/immunologist is a medical doctor with specialty training in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases, asthma, and diseases of the immune system. To become an allergist, a person must attend college (four years) and medical school (four years), undergo residency training in either internal medicine or pediatrics (three years) and then complete a fellowship in allergy/immunology (at least two years, often three). The physician then must pass pass an exam to become board-certified in this combined subspecialty.

Allergist showing girl inhaler in examination room

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Conditions Treated

An allergist/immunologist specializes in the treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. This includes the diagnosis and treatment of allergic rhinitis, asthma, allergic eye diseases, atopic dermatitis (eczema), urticaria (hives), chronic cough, chronic sinus infections, frequent colds/bronchitis and immune problems. Allergists also see patients with food allergy, medication allergy, bee sting (venom) allergy, and latex allergy.

Usually, a primary care physician refers a patient to see an allergist, although some patients will be sent to an allergist from another specialist, such as a dermatologist, an otolaryngologist (ear-nose-throat), a pulmonologist, or a rheumatologist.

Why See an Allergist

An allergist/immunologist can provide expert medical advice and treatment in the evaluation and management of people with allergic diseases, asthma, and immune problems (see above for types of patients seen). This includes the ability to perform and interpret allergy testing, expertise in treating complex allergic diseases and asthma, as well as the ability to prescribe allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots).

Studies prove that asthma patients who are under the care of an allergist are less likely to visit an emergency room or be hospitalized as a result of their asthma.

When to See an Allergist

The following is a list of reasons which may warrant an evaluation by an allergist:

  • Asthma that causes frequent symptoms, affects school/work/sleep/exercise, or leads to frequent doctor or emergency room visits.
  • Any asthma attack that has led to being hospitalized.
  • Frequent allergic rhinitis symptoms that affect a person’s lifestyle or lead to recurrent sinus infections.
  • Medications (over-the-counter or prescribed) are not helpful in treating allergic rhinitis or cause unwanted side effects.
  • Frequent or recurrent skin rashes, especially those that itch or may be related to allergies.
  • Any food allergy, mild or severe.
  • Any severe reaction to a bee sting, ant bite or sting, or mosquito bite.
  • Hives (urticaria) or swelling (angioedema).
  • Adults or children with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis.
  • The desire to reduce the need for medications and improve and possibly cure allergic rhinitis and asthma through treatment with allergy shots.
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  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.