What Is an Allergist?

Many people believe that allergists can only treat allergies. As we'll discover below, their job goes much further than that.
What Is an Allergist?

Written by Josberth Johan Benitez Colmenares, 12 August, 2021

Last update: 12 August, 2021

An allergist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies and diseases of the immune system. Because of this, in some countries, they’re known as immunologists.

Professionals in this branch of medicine are trained to deal with hundreds of diseases or conditions, although of course, each one has specific training (for example, in pediatric allergology). People are referred to these specialists when a condition or disease that demands it has been detected.

Unlike a common cold, which can be cured in a couple of days, the illnesses that allergology studies are more complex. Let’s see what kinds of conditions certified doctors can treat.

What diseases do allergists treat?

As we have already mentioned, an allergist is qualified to treat allergic diseases and various diseases of the immune system. Some conditions they are trained to treat are not unique to their specialty.

For example, a pulmonologist can treat asthma with similar efficiency. These nuances aside, the following conditions are the most common of the hundreds that allergology can address.

Rhinitis

Rhinitis is the inflammation or irritation of the mucous membranes of the nose. Although, for some patients, it’s usually a temporary condition, in others it can become a chronic problem that requires the mediation of a specialized professional.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) there are the following types:

  • Allergic (also known as hay fever)
  • Non-allergic rhinitis
  • Infectious rhinitis

Rhinitis causes itching and inflammation of the nose and eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, and phlegm in the throat. It can develop seasonally or throughout the year.

Allergic rhinitis in a woman.
Rhinitis can be intense and affect daily life, especially in the Spring.

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes narrowing of the airways. The pathology can have many causes, although it’s often triggered by allergic factors. In fact, and following the findings of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), up to 80% of asthmatics have positive allergy tests.

Depending on the triggers, the allergist will also need the help of other specialists, such as a pulmonologist. The disease has no cure, but it can be treated very well by identifying the triggers and with medication. You can check your asthma symptoms so that you know when you should see your doctor.

Food allergy

Food allergy is one of the most underrated conditions. According to the World Allergy Organization (WAO), its prevalence ranges between 1% and 10%, depending on geographic location.

It isn’t uncommon for milder cases of food allergy to be mistaken for an intestinal problem. For this reason, it can take several months and even years before the patient is referred to a specialist.

It should be noted that this condition is distinguished from others because it’s accompanied by hives, swelling, tingling, nasal congestion, wheezing, and other signs associated with allergies. We have put together a section that alerts you to how to identify a wheat allergy, often misinterpreted as celiac disease.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a type of skin allergy that causes skin rashes. In general, it’s diagnosed during childhood, although it can also develop in adulthood.

Specialists use a combination of therapies to treat it. This consists of detecting and avoiding its triggers, applying emollients and moisturizers, modifying the diet, and some aspects of hygiene.

Its treatment can be carried out with the help of a dermatologist – a doctor qualified in diseases of the skin, nails, hair, and other areas of the body. Both work together to stop the progression of the condition and prevent it from developing in the future. The allergist can also be helpful in treating hives and contact dermatitis.

Anaphylaxis

Life-threatening allergic reactions are known as anaphylaxis. They’re characterized by skin signs, low blood pressure, and airway constriction. If not resolved, they can cause shock and even death.

An allergist is trained to detect the chances that an allergic patient will develop an allergy in the future. So you can start a plan to reduce the risk or include habits to employ if they occur.

Epinephrine injection prescribed by an allergist.
Epinephrine injection can be prescribed by an allergist so that susceptible patients always carry it with them.

Some immune system disorders

As we mentioned at the beginning, specialists in this branch are also often called immunologists. This is because they can address primary immunodeficiency disorders.

This category groups together more than 100 hereditary and heterogeneous diseases that are characterized by defects in the defense system. The main ones are digestive, respiratory, and cutaneous, according to the evidence.

Allergists are also trained to treat the following:

  • Sinusitis
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Gastrointestinal allergy reactions
  • Dry socket
  • Drug allergy

When should I see an allergist?

The diagnosis of many of these diseases can be made by a primary care physician. Therefore, the first step is to consult with them, and, if necessary, there’ll be a referral to a specialist.

If the symptoms are very obvious, you can ask to see a specialist directly. It’s important to do this in the early stages, as choosing the best treatment or detecting triggers for symptoms can often take time.

Don’t put off your visit to the doctor. Some of these conditions can cause potentially dangerous reactions.

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