Allergology - Further information
In a search for specialists in allergology you will find medical experts for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases due to allergies. You suffer from an allergy? We will help you find an allergy expert.
In which specialist field are allergy specialists active?
An allergy specialist, or allergist, is a doctor who is medically trained to manage and treat allergies and allergic diseases. Practitioners in this medical field often combine their allergy role with immunology, a broader discipline that also treats allergies. In the medical world, both of these topics are usually considered sub-fields of paediatrics or internal medicine.
The study of allergy and hypersensitivity of the immune system is termed allergology, and thus an allergologist is a medical scientist who studies and practices within that associated field. As suggested above, immunologists also receive allergy training, and specialists in several other disciplines can also be involved in allergy management, including:
- ear nose and throat (ENT) specialists
- respiratory specialists
Although some allergy specialists may solely practice either in paediatric or adult allergy medicine, most practitioners will usually manage both adults and children, with a range of allergic disorders affecting many organ systems.
Which illnesses do allergy specialists treat?
An allergy specialist may be called upon to diagnose and treat a broad range of allergic conditions, which can include:
- allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
- anaphylaxis (a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction)
- angioedema and hereditary angioedema (rapid swelling beneath the skin)
- atopic eczema
- drug allergies
- food allergies
- insect venom allergies
- latex rubber allergies
- medication allergies
- nasal polyposis (soft, non-cancerous growths in nasal passage)
- urticaria or hives (rashes on skin)
- multiple allergies (asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis together)
Where there is a shortage of allergy specialists, the majority of uncomplicated allergy cases will usually be treated by an appropriate organ-based specialist.
What treatment methods are used by allergy specialists?
At the diagnostic phase, an allergy specialist may use the following diagnostic methods:
- a skin prick test
- a patch test
- an allergy blood test
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Once an allergic condition is identified via testing, the allergist can then advise on treatments and management strategies. For some, allergies can prove troublesome, though not life threatening, while a few people with a more dangerous condition called anaphylaxis may have to take risk management much more seriously.
Effective allergy management can be thought of as two phases:
- avoiding allergen triggers to reduce the chances of an allergic reaction
- using treatments and other measures to reduce your symptoms
- air conditioning
- dust mite mattress/pillow covers
- sunglasses to keep pollen away from your eyes
- avoiding food allergy triggers
However when allergy attacks do occur, relief from symptoms can often be provided by measures such as:
- eye drops
- nasal sprays
Anyone at risk from anaphylaxis (a sudden, severe allergic reaction) will be advised to carry an auto-injector containing a life-saving dosage of medication.
What additional qualifications are required by allergy specialists?
Physicians in the United States who have been certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI) will have studied an accredited educational program and taken part in an evaluation process. This includes passing an examination by demonstrating their knowledge, skills and experience in patient care in the fields of allergy and immunology.
The process of acquiring allergist/immunologist status demands at least nine years of training. After graduating from medical school with a medical degree, a physician will then complete three years of training in paediatrics (to become a paediatrician) or in internal medicine (to become an internist). Once physicians have finished training in one of these disciplines, they must then take an exam set by one of the following boards:
- the American Board of Paediatrics (ABP)
- the American Osteopathic Board of Paediatrics (AOBP)
- the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM)
- the American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine (AOBIM).
Qualifying in the sub-speciality of allergy-immunology then requires the internist or paediatrician to undertake an additional two years of study, called a fellowship, based on an allergy/immunology training program, before taking a final exam to become ABAI-certified.
Likewise, in the United Kingdom, allergy is also a sub-speciality of general medicine or paediatrics. After gaining postgraduate qualifications (MRCP or MRCPCH), a doctor must then complete several years as an (allergy) specialist registrar before qualifying and being placed on the General Medical Council specialist register. Immunologists are also qualified to deliver allergy services.