It usually takes at least nine years of training beyond a bachelor's degree for a physician to become an allergist/immunologist. After four years of medical school, an allergist must complete three years of residency training in either internal medicine (adult medicine) or pediatrics. A future allergist then needs to pass their board examinations in internal medicine or pediatrics before undertaking an additional 2-3 years of fellowship training in the specialty of allergy/immunology.
An allergist becomes board certified by passing a rigorous examination that covers both immunology and clinical science. A board-certified allergist is trained in the evaluation and management of both adult and pediatric patients. This demonstrates that the allergist/immunologist has the knowledge, skills, and experience to provide high-quality care to patients with allergic and immunologic disorders.
Common medical conditions that allergists manage include environmental allergies (hayfever), asthma, immunodeficiency, urticaria (hives), atopic dermatitis (eczema), drug allergies, chronic cough, food allergies and insect. A board-certified allergist/immunologist can dramatically improve the quality of life for patients with these conditions resulting in decreased emergency room visits, acute doctor office visits and days missed from school or work.
An allergist/immunologist will combine an in-depth interview, environmental exposure history, and physical examination together with specific laboratory tests to help arrive at a diagnosis. Common tests performed in an allergist's office include allergen skin testing to environmental as well as food and lung function, which is a test to measure lung capacity. A board-certified allergist will provide individualized treatment plans focusing on environmental avoidance measures and prevention in addition to medical treatment. Allergists are especially recognized for being the expert provider of allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots). Allergen immunotherapy is the only active intervention that can alleviate allergy or asthma symptoms without the use of medications.