Many people have to cope with allergies, whether they are seasonal or triggered by anything from food to pets. For some people, natural or over-the-counter remedies are enough to keep their allergies in check. Other people have allergies that are more severe than those medications can effectively treat, or they have allergic reactions and don’t know what has prompted them. If you fall into the latter group, it may be time to consider seeing an immunologist.

What Is an Immunologist?

An immunologist is also sometimes called an allergist. This type of doctor specializes in treating the immune system, including allergies, as the name suggests, as well as asthma. They also address and help manage primary immunodeficiency diseases, which are disorders of the immune system that are genetic rather than caused by environmental factors and are often linked to autoimmune disorders. As well as having a medical degree, these doctors have also received further, specific training in identifying and treating these areas of focus.

Reasons to See an Immunologist

Because they cover a broad range of ailments, there are many reasons why you might decide to see an immunologist. If you think you may be suffering from allergies, or if your current allergy treatment isn’t working and you want to try an alternative, an immunologist may be able to help you. They can perform an allergy test to find out what, if anything, you’re allergic to and work with you to find a treatment plan. The same applies to their other specializations. For those with asthma, consulting with an immunologist can make it less of an interference in your life. If you suspect that you have an immunodeficiency disease or have already been diagnosed with one, an immunologist can confirm that diagnosis. Additionally, they can give you the tools you need to keep the condition in check. A weakened immune system can make you more susceptible to infections and potentially severe or fatal illnesses. In these cases, it is particularly important to see a doctor who can help you stay as healthy as possible.

What Does an Immunologist Do?

Immunology, like the immune system itself, is an extensive field. Some immunologists choose to focus on research and laboratory work; others work in the pharmaceutical industry to try to help come up with new treatments. There are also many subspecialties of immunology, including pediatric immunology, embryo immunology, and radiation immunology, which restores the immune system after radiation treatment. All of them, however, treat and diagnose conditions relating to the immune system, including allergies and asthma. This treatment can involve testing for allergic reactions with skin tests, where an allergen is applied to a puncture on the skin or inserted just below the skin with a needle to determine if an allergic reaction occurs. Diagnosing other disorders may involve blood or urine tests.

Once they have given a diagnosis, immunologists work with you to treat and manage whatever condition you may have, prescribing medications and helping you devise lifestyle plans around your illness.

How Is an Immunologist Certified?

To become an immunologist, the first requirement is graduating from medical school and becoming an MD. After that, doctors must complete a The first requirement to become an immunologist is graduating from medical school and becoming an MD. After that, doctors must complete a residency, which is three years for internal medicine, and become a licensed medical practitioner. Once they are licensed, they also must gain certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine or the American Board of Pediatrics. A fellowship for an immunologist and/or allergist takes another two to three years of training in a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. After passing an exam, an immunologist can finally be certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

State licensure is also necessary for practicing immunologists, as well as passing regular exams to keep their certification. You can check the certification status of an immunologist on the American Board of Allergy and Immunology’s website, and you can look for a practitioner near you by searching Caredash’s database.

Referral and Research

Before you can see an immunologist, whether you are doing so for allergies, asthma, or another condition, you’ll need to be referred by your primary care physician. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology has a set of criteria to determine whether a referral is appropriate. Talk to your doctor if you think seeing this specialist could be helpful.

First Meeting With Your Immunologist

Before seeing an immunologist for the first time, take notes about what you would like to ask about or discuss. It may be helpful to have on hand at your appointment to make sure that you don’t forget anything you want to bring up.

Some possible questions to ask, depending on the reasons for your visit, include:

  • What treatment options do I have? Is there an alternative to what I’ve been doing already?
  • Will I need to have any tests done? What will these tests involve?
  • How will my diagnosis impact my lifestyle?
  • What can I do to minimize the effects of this condition? Is there anything I should avoid doing?
  • Should I schedule a follow-up appointment? How soon should I come back?

Immunologists provide care for numerous conditions, and their input can be invaluable when it comes to managing allergies, asthma, or immune disorders. Consult with your doctor if you think that seeing one is right for you, and know that your health is in good hands.