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I have had very severe ocular allergies during spring for the better part of 20 years. Where I live in the USA I can almost not spend any time outdoors from the middle of March until early to...View full Conversation
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1. Who Is An Allergist/Immunologist?
An allergist/immunologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of allergies, asthma, and immunologic diseases. To become an allergist/immunologist, after graduating from medical school, a doctor completes a residency in internal medicine or pediatrics, followed by a fellowship in allergy and immunology.
An allergy specialist has specialized training to treat and manage allergies caused by foods, drugs, dust, pets, insect bites, parasites, pollution, pollen, or any other allergen. Conditions commonly treated by allergist/immunologists include asthma and other respiratory diseases (allergic rhinitis, bronchitis, pneumonia), occupational lung diseases, skin allergies (atopic and contact dermatitis, chronic and acute urticarial, or angioedema), allergic conjunctivitis, anaphylaxis, as well as primary immuno-deficiencies (selective IgA deficiency, severe combined immunodeficiency, DiGeorge syndrome), and immunosuppression due to HIV infection or certain medicines.
2. When Should I See an Allergist/Immunologist?
Your primary care provider will usually refer you to an allergist/immunologist if your symptoms are suggestive of an allergy or immunodeficiency disease. You may be referred or may want to consult an allergy specialist online for:
• Skin rashes
• Chronic cough
• Stuffy or runny nose, with cough, fever and fatigue
• Skin or digestive sensitivity or allergy to certain foods, drugs, dust, pets, pollens, or stinging insects
• Recurrent infections, pneumonia, sinusitis, bronchitis
• Swollen lymph nodes, or sinuses
• Serious asthma symptoms such as trouble catching your breath, chest tightness, or being short of breath
• Poorly controlled asthma
• Recurrent or hard-to-treat infections
• Red, itchy, and watery eyes
• Abscesses in the skin or organs
• Autoimmune disease
• Poor or incomplete recovery from illness
3. What Tests Does an Allergist/Immunologist Perform or Recommend?
Your allergist/immunologist may perform or request a few tests to diagnose your allergy/immunology condition, including:
• Oral challenge test
• Methacholine or histamine challenge testing
• Hydrogen breath test
• Allergy skin test such as prick test, patch test, intradermal (skin injection) test
• Radioallergosorbent test (RAST)
• Spirometry or other lung function tests
• Nasopharyngoscopy or rhinoscopy
• HIV test
• Immune system tests including immunoglobulin (such as IgE) and complement levels in the blood
• Protein electrophoresis (blood or urine)
• Complete blood count
4. What Questions Should I Ask An Allergist/Immunologist?
You may want to ask an allergy specialist these kinds of questions:
• What caused my condition? How common is it? Are there long-term consequences?
• What treatment do you recommend? What are the chances of success for this treatment?
• How long will treatment take? Are there any side-effects of the treatment?
• Are there any alternatives to this treatment?
• Am I prone to allergic reactions due to my family history?
• Is it possible that my allergic reactions will reduce in severity over time or will I outgrow the allergy?
• How can I recognize early allergy symptoms? How do I know if my symptoms are caused by an allergy or a common cold?
• What precautions can I take at home to prevent the allergic reactions? Do I need to avoid any food or drug? Is it okay to have a pet at home? Should I make any changes around the house?
• What will happen in an anaphylactic reaction?
• Do I need to carry epinephrine auto injectors with me at all times? How are they used and what are the precautions and side effects?
• What are the emergency signs I need to watch out for?