The Allergist’s Role Part Two
An allergist is a medical doctor with special training in the areas of asthma, allergy and immune diseases. Board certified allergists specialize in identifying, diagnosing and treating allergy and immune diseases. They are able to expertly provide and interpret allergy tests. Allergists are also able to examine allergy triggers and can apply methods to prevent allergic reactions.
Your family physician or another specialist may have referred you to an allergist for treatment or management of your child’s food allergies. Or, you may have determined that your child should see a specialist regarding his or her food allergies but have no idea where to start.
If you haven’t already read Part One of My Kids Food Allergy’s series, The Allergist’s Role: Why an Allergist Might Be Better at Treating Your Child’s Food Allergies Than Other Doctors, now might be a good time to check it out to learn more about allergists and their role in your child’s food allergy management. This installment in the series can help you prepare for the task of choosing an allergist for your child. These five tips can help you find the right allergist for your child. Finding the right allergist can help ensure your child gets appropriate care for his or her individual circumstance.
- Get Referrals – There are several places where you can obtain a referral to an allergist.
- Doctors – Primary care physicians will often refer their patients to allergists. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, Immunology (ACAAI) maintains a searchable database of allergists by location.
- The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, Immunology (AAAAI) also maintains a searchable database of allergists by location.
- Health Insurance Company – Your health insurance carrier may have a list of allergists in your area who are also covered by your specific medical insurance plan.
- Referrals from friends and family – Talk to your friends and family, as they may have information about allergists in your area whom they know and trust.
- Research Credentials, Experience and Patient Reviews – Once you have obtained a list of allergists in your area who may be able to treat your child, research the following information.
- Credentials – Allergists should be board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI). Because all physicians have at least a medical board certification, any doctor could say that they are a “board certified” allergist. However, you are seeking a physician who is certified as an allergist. You can verify board certifications online at www.certificationmatters.org or call 877-ASK-ABMS.
- It is important to add that the board certification examination for allergists needs to be taken every 10 years to keep certification updated.
- Also, not every board certified allergist is formally trained. If your allergist is not both formally trained and board certified, you may want to find a different allergist.
- Experience – How long has your allergist been in practice, and what is his or her focus? Does that focus fit with your child’s needs? For instance, is the allergist’s practice focused on asthma issues, but your child has food allergies? Of course, what the answers to these questions mean to you will depend upon personal preference.
- Patient Reviews – Feedback from an allergist’s former or current patients can be a valuable tool to determine whether a particular allergist is right for your child. It’s important to look beyond whether the review is “good” or “less than stellar” and look at why the reviewer felt the way he did about his experience. If your priorities and needs are similar to a specific reviewer’s, that particular review may be more helpful than one from a reviewer whose needs are vastly different from your own.
- Communication Style – You will likely build a relationship with your child’s allergist, so it can be essential to have strong, open communication that is understandable and fits well with your personality and that of your child. Is the allergist aggressive with therapies, but you would like a more conservative approach? Or, is he or she conservative in therapy strategies while you want more aggressive tests and treatments to control symptoms quickly?
- Insurance Coverage – Working with your insurance carrier is vital. Coverages vary widely, so it is important to determine what is covered by your plan as you proceed. If you do not have insurance or have limited coverage, check with potential allergists to establish which plans they work with and whether they have programs for alternative, limited or no coverage.
- Red Flags – Pay attention to any potential red flags you come across. For instance, you may want to avoid an allergist who:
- is not formally trained or board certified;
- has questionable reviews from reviewers whose circumstances and needs match your own;
- displays communication and treatment styles that are at odds with your preferences; or
- displays any number of intangible characteristics that just don’t “sit right” with you.
Since many qualities, other than board certification and training, that you may look for in an allergist come down to personal preference, it’s okay to “follow your gut.”
Check out Part Three of this series, The Allergist’s Role: Preparing To Meet Your Child‘s Allergist? 3 Steps to Get You Ready for That First Visit, to discover how to prepare for your first visit with your child’s allergist.
The previous article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. As always, consult with your child’s physician when making any medical decisions.