What is an allergist?
An allergist/immunologist is a physician specially trained to manage and treat allergies and asthma. To become an allergist/immunologist, one must complete a minimum of nine years of training. After completing medical school and graduating as a physician, a doctor will complete three years of training in internal medicine (to become an internist) or pediatrics (to become a pediatrician). Once physicians have completed training in one of these specialties, internists or pediatricians who wish to focus on the subspecialty of allergy/immunology complete at least two additional years of study, called a fellowship, in an allergy/immunology training program. Certified allergists/immunologists have passed the Canadian Council on Allergy and Immunology certification examination following their fellowship.
With this extensive education and training, the allergist/immunologist is the most qualified health care professional to effectively manage the comprehensive needs of patients with allergic diseases. 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 can simply be gotten rid of. The help of a qualified allergist/immunologist can reduce the frequency with which patients have to miss work or school due to symptoms. Studies show that people treated by an allergist/immunologist make fewer trips to the emergency room and are better able to manage their allergies and asthma on a daily basis.
If you are enrolled in a managed care organization, your insurance provider will have a specific set of guidelines that will help your primary care physician decide when to refer you to an allergist/immunologist. Once you have been referred to an allergist/immunologist, he or she will work to make an accurate diagnosis of your condition by conducting a thorough review of your medical history, including your symptoms, family history, and home and work environment. Your allergist/immunologist will also perform allergy skin tests and any other necessary tests. By combining the specific information from your history and testing, the allergist/immunologist 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 prescribe the most cost-effective treatment, including recommendations for specific medications and/or devices, as well as any necessary environmental control measures. Your allergist/immunologist and paramedical staff will not only prescribe medications and devices, but also show you how and when to use them.