An Allergist/Immunologist is a medical doctor specializing in diagnosing, treating, and managing health conditions affecting the immune system.
People with allergies often work with these healthcare professionals. Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a usually harmless substance, such as pet dander, insect stings, or specific proteins in food.
Allergists/Immunologists may help treat the following immune-related conditions:
- Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction that causes inflammation in the nose and airways.
- Allergic conjunctivitis causes eye inflammation when the person comes into contact with an allergen.
- Anaphylaxis refers to a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that can make breathing difficult or impossible and may cause low blood pressure and vomiting. Injectable epinephrine can help minimize these symptoms, but the person will require immediate medical attention.
- Asthma is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and excess mucus production in the airways, making breathing difficult. Other asthma symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness.
- Atopic dermatitis is an eczema that causes a red, itchy skin rash. It occurs most frequently in individuals who have underlying allergies. In some cases, specific environmental or food triggers may aggravate it.
- Urticaria, or hives, refers to red, itchy welts that develop on areas of the skin following exposure to a food or medication allergen. The bumps may also develop after contact with an environmental allergen, such as animal dander, or even as part of an autoimmune-like reaction.
- Eosinophilic esophagitis occurs when a white blood cell called an eosinophil accumulates in the esophagus (food pipe), resulting in chronic inflammation and tissue damage.
- Primary immunodeficiency diseases occur when different immune cells or proteins malfunction or are missing.
- Autoinflammatory syndromes which cause spontaneous inflammation due to an overactive immune response.
Allergists/Immunologists in the U.S. complete at least nine years of graduate-level education and training before seeing patients.
Allergy/immunology is an internal medicine or pediatric subspecialty. Clinical allergists/immunologists treat people who have allergies or immunologic diseases. They usually work in private or state-run healthcare facilities.
Academic allergists/immunologists plan and conduct research studies in allergy and immunology. Some academic allergists/immunologists also see patients in a clinical setting.