Decision Assist

Allergy specialist

Introduction

The purpose of this tool is to help you decide whether or not to see an allergy specialist. When making a decision like this, you must balance:

This tool is not a substitute for professional medical care and advice. Ask your regular doctor to help you decide whether it is worth seeing a specialist. There is usually no exact "right" or "wrong" answer.

Your doctor may make certain recommendations to you. However, the final decision about whether to see a specialist rests with you.

What does this specialist do?

Just about any substance that you inhale or swallow, or that touches your skin, can cause allergies. Your body's immune system is designed to attack harmful substances like bacteria and viruses. But with allergies, your body launches an assault on substances (allergens) that are basically harmless -- such as pollen, mold, dust mites, pet saliva and dander, and even medications and insect sting venom.

Allergic reactions

Allergies not only cause a range of annoying symptoms such as sneezing and itchy eyes, they also can aggravate or trigger other conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, and ear infections. Allergies are extremely common. About 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, leading to a lot of missed work and school days each year.

Allergy symptoms
Click the icon to see some common allergy symptoms.

Many people initially self-treat their allergies with over-the-counter drugs. But if your allergy symptoms do not improve, or you have unpleasant side effects from these medicines, you may need to see a health care provider. Your primary care doctor can prescribe most allergy drugs for you.

Many people with bad allergies wonder about seeing an "allergist." An allergist diagnoses, treats, and manages allergy-related conditions, like allergic rhinitis and asthma. To become an allergist or immunologist, a doctor needs at least 2 - 3 years of specialized study in asthma, allergy, and immunology after their medical training. Those who are ABAI-certified passed the American Board of Allergy and Immunology's certification examination.

Key points

How much time this decision tool will take

What this tool will provide


Review Date: 9/12/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


References:
  • Bahls C. In the clinic. Allergic rhinitis. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Apr 3;146(7):ITC4-1-ITC4-16.
  • Calderon MA, Alves B, Jacobson M, Hurwitz B, Sheikh A, Durham S. Allergen injection immunotherapy for seasonal allergic rhinitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jan 24;(1):CD001936.
  • Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters. Allergen immunotherapy: a practice parameter. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2003 Jan;90(1 Suppl 1):1-40.
  • Saleh HA, Durham SR. Perennial rhinitis. BMJ. 2007 Sep 8;335(7618):502-7.
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