Allergy Specialist – Our body reacts to substances that are otherwise normally harmless, like food, pets, pollen, mold, and latex, in sensitive ways that sometimes lead to immune reactions ranging from mild to severe. This reaction is known as an allergic reaction, and these substances are referred to as allergens. Some allergens like bees, wasps, and insect stings can be dangerous to some degree, even in non-allergic people but can be life-threatening to people with diagnosed allergies.
Allergic symptoms manifest in different forms, which include a runny nose, itchiness, body rash, red and watery eyes, swollen body parts, and difficulty breathing. If you’re prone to allergies, you may experience one or more of these symptoms when exposed to allergens. Also, the amount of allergen you are exposed to may influence the degree to which you experience these symptoms.
But why do we have allergies at all? You can say allergies occur as a result of an overzealous immune system. For illustration, there’s nothing innately harmful about legumes like peanuts or animals like cats or dogs.
But when people allergic to peanuts or cats come into contact with the plant protein in peanuts by way of ingestion or the animal dander by inhalation, the immune system perceives these substances as foreign and responds by producing antibodies, specifically Immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies in attempts to launch an attack.
This triggers the release of histamine, a hormone responsible for inflammatory responses and fighting pathogens, which is responsible for the allergy symptoms we experience.
Today, about 41.7% of American adults report one type of allergy. Depending on how adverse they are, when these symptoms appear, we usually allow them to run their course, refer to over-the-counter medication, or go to see a general medical practitioner for advice.
However, when you experience a serious allergic reaction and OTC medications can’t effectively relieve your condition, even a primary care physician would have to refer you to an allergy specialist.
What Is An Allergy Specialist?
An allergy specialist is essentially an allergist [also known as an immunologist] – a physician specializing in diagnosing, treating, and managing allergies and other immune problems. An allergist must comprehensively know how your body system fights infections to diagnose and treat allergies effectively.
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology [AAAAI], specialization as an allergist in the United States requires, on average, nine years of further education and practice after completing a bachelor’s degree.
Upon completing a graduate degree, an allergist must undergo three years of residency training as a pediatrician or internal medicine practitioner and pass respective board-certified exams.
Afterward, they would need to undertake an additional two to three years of fellowship training in a certified immunology training program. After this, they must pass the American Board of Allergy and Immunology [ABAI] certification exam.
As you can imagine, being an allergist/immunologist is a sophisticated field that warrants careful consideration. This leads us to our next point of discussion – how do you find an allergy specialist to manage your allergy condition for the better?
Finding The Right Allergy Specialist
Before looking for a specialist, you may have already seen a Primary Healthcare professional for primary diagnosis. However, because your health and overall quality of life depend on it, it is crucial that you find an allergy specialist that ticks all the boxes for you while considering how comfortable you feel in their presence, medical costs, and their level of experience. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Research Your Specialist Credentials
When choosing an allergist, certification from a recognized board is a criterion you should have at the top of your list. Board certification assures you that the doctor has completed the necessary training and is skilled and experienced in providing health care for immunological disorders and allergies.
During your research, you should also look into the doctor’s history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions, if they have any. You can find all this information regarding your allergist’s med school training, certifications, and practice history on board or state websites.
Seek Referrals And Recommendations
Your Primary Healthcare professional would be a good place to start your search for an allergy specialist. They would be able to refer you to a certified specialist around your locality.
You can also ask for recommendations from family and friends who have had a similar allergy or immune condition in the past. After getting referrals, you should call the allergist’s office to book a consultation or interview with the doctor.
Consider Your Insurance Coverage
Depending on your insurance plan, seeking an allergy specialist may not be covered by your health insurance. It would help if you considered how much of your treatment your insurance provider would be able to cover and how much your out-of-pocket costs will be before deciding on an allergist.
You may need to confirm with your immunologist if they accept your HMO and other considerations like the quality of the hospital or facility you choose for your treatment.
Read Online Reviews
You can understand a lot about how an allergist practices by reading reviews from previous patients online. You can do this before scheduling an appointment with your allergy specialist to resolve any questions you may have in mind when you visit the doctor’s office.
Reviews from other patients can tell you about the office environment, patient service, wait times, and appointment schedules, even before you leave the comfort of your home.
You can get answers to questions like how much time the doctor spends with patients, how hospitable the Medical Center is, and the level of trust patients have in the doctor’s capabilities.
Consider Their Experience
Practicing as an allergy specialist requires a considerable level of experience. The experience an allergist/immunologist has with a particular condition would determine how well suited they are to treat you and improve your condition effectively.
During your consultation, you can enquire about how many people the allergist has attended to in the past with your type of condition. You can also learn about possible complications you’ll likely face during the treatment.
Ask About Virtual Appointment
These days medical professionals can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication to patients with mild selective conditions using telecommunications technologies like smartphones and computers. This is known as telehealth, a service many healthcare professionals offer patients to reduce the number of physical visits their patients have to go through.
Of course, telehealth is no replacement for an in-person doctor appointment. Still, it means fewer trips to the doctor’s office for you in cases like routine follow-ups or minor complaints.
What To Expect From An Allergy Specialist?
A trained and certified allergist takes a holistic approach to treating allergies. They would have a look into your medical history, family health history, and your lifestyle to put together diagnostic tests and treatment plans tailored to your condition. Here are a few questions to expect when you visit an allergist.
- How long have you had symptoms, and when did you start noticing them?
- Have you ever experienced anaphylactic shock?
- How did you treat the condition?
- Do you experience a runny nose, itchy skin, or watery eyes?
- What time of the year and in which environment do you usually experience these symptoms?
- Does your family have a history of asthma allergies or other immune conditions?
After this, the doctor may recommend allergy testing to confirm what allergies your body reacts to. One such test is a skin prick test which works by pricking your skin and applying a small quantity of the allergen in liquid form. If you’re reactive, this will be evidenced by a bump appearing on the skin area within minutes.
In other cases, the allergy specialists may ask for a blood test, requiring your blood sample to be taken and analyzed in the laboratory.
Treatment plans for allergy patients include:
- Medications, e.g., EpiPens and other preventive drugs
- Non-medical therapies, e.g., the use of face masks when in public places
- Allergen avoidance – which involves staying away from places allergens are usually found in abundance, like flower gardens, in case of a pollen allergy.
- Immunotherapy – which involves controlled exposure to the allergen in minimal doses to build resistance
Our body responds to allergens differently as we age and change our lifestyles. Therefore, you must seek an allergist with whom you can build a lasting relationship, someone you can regularly see to look for changes and update your treatment plan.
Kratz Allergy and Asthma, based in Port Richey, Florida, has an experienced allergist and immunologist of 23 years Dr. Jamie Kratz, MD. Get in touch for more information on everything allergy and book a consultation today.