When most people experience a pronounced medical ailment, their first inclination is to seek medical guidance or assistance. The most common form of medical guidance comes in the shape of a visit to the family doctor, or in cases of a specific and focused issue, a specialist. A food allergy is no different. If your child appeared to be suffering from symptoms of a food allergy, your immediate inclination would likely be to seek the assistance of his or her pediatrician or the family doctor to determine if in fact the symptoms are evidence of a true food allergy or indicate something else. Doctors are often the first stop on the road to clarity and resolution. Seems about right, correct? But, should that stop be the only stop?
Think about this for a moment: each doctor, upon completing medical school and beginning residency, chooses a specialty in which to practice. Though a board certified doctor is qualified to provide medical treatment over a broad generalized area, each spends between 3-5 years honing their skill and proficiency in a highly specific area, their specialty. So, ask yourself, what is your family doctor’s specialty? Is it internal medicine, general practice or something else? And what is her experience with treating allergies? Or is your doctor an allergist? An allergist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases and related conditions.
In November 2014, hundreds of doctors, allergists, health professionals and industry representatives met in Atlanta for the Annual American College of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (ACAAI) scientific meeting. The focus of the meeting was to discuss and review the latest diagnostic techniques and treatments in development as well as peer review studies not yet published; one of those studies exposed gaps in internists’ and pediatricians’ knowledge of current best practices in allergy treatment.
Do you know where you doctor falls within the following statistics?
- 50 percent of internists did not know that the best first line treatment for a severe food allergy reaction is epinephrine.
- 85 percent of internists did not know the flu shot is now considered safe for patients with an egg allergy. Although in 2012 scientific studies minimized the correlation between egg allergies and the flu shot, these physicians still believed the flu shot should not be administered to patients with an egg allergy. Additionally, there are currently several flu vaccination medications, many of which use neither fertilized chicken eggs nor the flu virus in their formulas.
- 73 percent of pediatricians did not know that the most common causes of food allergies in children under age 4 are milk and eggs.
In fact, 37 percent of physicians believed the leading cause was an allergy to strawberries, while 13 percent believed it was an allergy to artificial food coloring.
Does this mean your doctor cannot help with your child’s allergy needs? No, it does not. These findings do, however, tend to highlight the need for patients to seek the assistance of board certified allergists and for more professional education among doctors of other specialties. Currently, allergists are the best-trained medical professionals to treat food allergy issues effectively. In fact, a board certified allergist-immunologist has obtained advanced training and expertise in techniques and protocols designed to determine the cause of an allergic reaction and the best next steps to resolve the issue.
If your child is experiencing signs of a food allergy, the first stop may be to your family physician or pediatrician, but don’t stop there. Be sure to ask for a referral to a board certified allergist to help you navigate your child’s allergy needs and treatment protocol.
For more information on locating an allergist in your area, visit ACAAI at http://acaai.org/locate-an-allergist.