Role of Allergist/Immunologist

Role of Allergist In Allergy Treatment and Management

If you have been diagnosed with asthma or allergies, your physician will likely refer you to an allergist/immunologist for care. You may wonder: What is allergic disease? How can an allergist/immunologist help? This brochure is intended to provide information on allergic disease and on the role that an allergist/immunologist plays in the appropriate management and treatment of these diseases.

An allergist/immunologist is a doctor specially trained to manage and treat allergies and asthma. Becoming an allergist/immunologist requires completion of at least nine years of training. After completing medical school and graduating with a medical degree, a physician will then undergo three years of training in internal medicine (to become an internist) or pediatrics (to become a pediatrician). Once the physicians have finished training in one of these specialties, they must pass the exam of either the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) or the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).

Internists or pediatricians who wish to focus on the subspecialty of allergy/immunology then complete at least an additional two years of study, called a fellowship, in an allergy/immunology training program.

As a result of this extensive study and training, an allergist/immunologist is the best-qualified medical professional to effectively manage the comprehensive needs of patients with allergic disease. Allergists/immunologists are trained in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of immune system problems such as allergies, asthma, inherited immunodeficiency diseases, autoimmune diseases and even AIDS. Unlike a cold, allergic disease is not a condition that someone can just “get over.” The help of a trained allergy specialist can reduce how often patients need to stay home from work or school due to symptoms. Studies show that those under the care of an allergist/immunologist also make fewer visits to emergency rooms and are better able to daily manage their allergies and asthma.

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 patient 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 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’s Communication

To ensure optimal care, those with allergies and asthma must take an active role in their treatment by asking questions, learning about triggers of their condition, and understanding reasons for various methods of treatment. Open communication is a necessary, successful part of Allergic Disease Management.

As a patient, you may want to ask these questions:

  1. Is the physician who is treating me or my family specifically trained to make an appropriate diagnosis and provide effective management and treatment of allergic disease?
  2. Has my physician completed a fellowship in allergy and immunology?
  3. Does my physician regularly attend continuing medical education programs in allergy and immunology? What does the diagnosis and treatment of my allergies and/or asthma entail? What are my options? Do my symptoms meet insurance guidelines for allergy referral?
  4. Has the diagnosis and treatment plan my physician has prescribed been proven effective by virtue of accepted standards for scientific evaluation?

You and your allergist/immunologist 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 optimal quality of life that you deserve.