The Allergist’s Role Part One
Has your child been suffering from food allergies for months or even years with no real relief? Maybe you are not satisfied with the level of care you’ve received from your primary physician regarding your child’s food allergies and are unsure about what to do next.
On the other hand, maybe your child has recently been suffering from frequent tummy aches, asthma-like symptoms or outbreaks of eczema and itchy rashes. Or maybe he took a bite of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—his favorite—only to have his lips suddenly swell up like sausages. The event prompted you to take your child to his physician for medical treatment and to determine what was “wrong.” You may have been surprised to learn that your child is suffering from a food allergy, and you unexpectedly found yourself in a strange new world with a different set of rules to keep your child safe from harm.
Either way, if your child suffers from food allergies, you might want to seek treatment from a board certified allergist/immunologist. Finding the right allergist can help ensure your child gets appropriate care for his individual circumstance.
What Is an Allergist?
An allergist is a medical doctor with special training in the areas of asthma, allergy and immune diseases. Allergists have the same initial requirements as other physicians: eight years of college (undergraduate and medical school) along with three years in residency. While medical residents may choose any specialty, allergists must complete their residency in either pediatrics or internal medicine, after which they are required to pass a rigorous exam to become a board certified pediatrician or internist. Any pediatrician or internist who wishes to become an allergist or immunologist must also complete two years of specialty training in allergy and immunology, then pass a second rigorous board certification examination in the areas of allergy and immunology.
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 apply methods to prevent allergic reaction. If your child suffers frequent or recurrent skin irritation, itchy rashes or any food allergy, an allergist may be the right choice for your child’s allergy management.
Why Choose an Allergist and Not a General Immunologist, Pediatrician or Family Physician?
Would you go to an orthopedist if you had a heart problem, or to an ear, nose and throat doctor if you had a back problem? Probably not. Even though any physician could adequately recognize most issues, specialists deal primarily with their specialty and tend to be the most knowledgeable in current protocols and treatments within their specialty. Since allergists receive special training and certification in the field of allergy and immunology, they are arguably in a better position to assess, diagnose and appropriately treat food allergies than other doctors.
If you are satisfied with the care you are receiving from your child’s current physician, there may be no need to make any changes, even if he or she is not an allergist. However, if you believe an allergist may be a better fit to treat your child’s food allergies, you might want to consider making a change.
Are you considering consulting an allergist regarding your child’s food allergies? Check out Part Two of this series: How to Find the Right Allergist Specialist for Your Child: 5 Tips to Remember.
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.