Physicians who specialize in allergy and immunology, called allergists/clinical immunologists, are trained in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of problems involving the immune system. These problems include reactions to usually harmless substances such as food, drugs, chemicals, insect stings and pollens, and allergic conditions such as hay fever, asthma, hives, dermatitis, and eczema.
Allergists/immunologists are also trained to handle:
- both inherited and acquired immunodeficiency diseases, including acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) as well as congenital and acquired agammaglobulinemia and IgA deficiency;
- various autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, lupus erythematosus and vasculitis; and
- organ transplant rejection and cancer of the lymph glands.
When treating a patient, an allergist/immunologist examines the patient's background and performs tests to identify the cause of the allergic or immunologic problem. The allergist/ immunologist may then advise the patient to avoid certain substances, prescribe medications for allergy or asthma, or administer immunizing injections, which increase the patient's tolerance to certain substances and reduce allergic symptoms.
Training for allergists/immunologists includes medical school, followed by three years of postgraduate training in pediatrics or internal medicine, and two additional years in allergy and immunology. Thus, allergists/immunologists specialize as pediatricians or internists, and are also trained in allergy/clinical immunology.
For answers to your questions about allergies and asthma or referral
to a allergy/asthma specialist in your area, call the
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's 24-hour, toll-free
Physician Referral and Information Line
Source: Choosing a Medical Specialty. Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS), Lake Forest, IL. 1990:1.