A cardiologist takes care of heart problems, a gastroenterologist deals with issues of the GI tract and an ophthalmologist treats eye disorders. Almost all specialists care for a specific organ system of the body. But what does an allergist do? The allergist does not care for a specific “organ” system, and this can lead to confusion around knowing when to schedule an appointment with one.
Who Are Allergists?
Allergists are MDs or DOs who, after medical school, train for three years in medicine and/or pediatrics and then do a two- to three-year fellowship in allergy/immunology. Following all that training, they must pass a rigorous examination to be board-certified in allergy.
Here are some of the diverse medical conditions an allergist can help you manage.
[Read: How to Treat Seasonal Allergies.]
What Do Allergists Treat?
Allergic rhinitis or hay fever, which affects more than 20% of the population, may require the expertise of an allergist. If you can’t control your nasal symptoms with over-the-counter anti-allergy medications and your health care provider has not found you relief, it may be time to consult an allergist. They can determine what type of allergies you have and develop a personalized action plan.
For many patients with nasal problems, allergies are not actually the cause. Their troubles may be due to non-allergic rhinitis, and despite the name, allergists are trained to treat this condition as well as allergies.
Along with nasal ailments, the allergist can care for allergic eye problems like watering, itching and redness. Workup and medical management of sinusitis and nasal polyps are also a specialty of the allergist.
Asthma. Many people with asthma don’t know that allergists are specially trained in treating asthma and can help you control your lung problems, especially if your symptoms are moderate to severe. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, if you have had two or more treatments with oral corticosteroids in the last year and/or one or more emergency department visit or hospitalization for asthma, consulting an allergist can help you to develop an action plan to get your asthma under control.
Another respiratory condition that your allergist can help you with is chronic cough. It’s considered chronic when the cough lasts for longer than six weeks. The allergist can run tests for the cause and prescribe appropriate management.
Severe allergic reactions. An allergist is the specialist you should see if you believe you have had an allergic reaction to a food, drug, vaccine or insect. For many of these things, an allergist can test to see if you have an allergy and prescribe a treatment plan to prevent future reactions. More and more new treatments for food allergies are becoming available, and your allergist can determine if you qualify for their use.
Anaphylaxis. If you have been to an emergency department and were told that you experienced anaphylaxis, then evaluation for a cause and treatment can be performed by an allergist. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. Some of its common symptoms include:
— Shortness of breath.
— Throat tightness.
Preventing further anaphylactic reactions is vital, and your allergist is equipped to guide you.
Penicillin allergy. If you’ve been told you have a penicillin allergy and it’s in your medical chart, you can be tested by an allergist to see if it’s truly present. Studies show that only 10% of people who believe they have penicillin allergy actually do. If you are tested and found to not be allergic, you can use penicillin and other effective penicillin-based drugs to treat infections.
Eczema. Did you know allergists also treat allergic skin conditions? If you have atopic dermatitis (eczema), hives or contact dermatitis, an allergist can help you with diagnosis, treatment and management. They are trained in the proper workup for these disorders and can prescribe a treatment regimen to give you relief. Looking for causes of itchy skin is an area of expertise of the allergist.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Allergists are also trained as clinical immunologists. This gives them the knowledge to diagnose if your frequent infections are caused by an immune problem. If you have repeated ear infections, pneumonia or bronchitis, consult an allergist to determine if you have an immune deficiency.
Allergists care for many medical conditions that are frequently seen in doctors’ offices. If you aren’t getting the relief you need for the above ailments, reach out to a board-certified allergist to feel better soon.
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