An allergist is a physician with specialized training in the diagnosis, treatment and management of allergies. While many doctors can treat allergy symptoms, allergists are able to diagnose the specific causes of an allergy.
Like all medical specialists, allergists complete a course of advanced studies and pass a examination by the American Board of Allergists and Immunologists (ABA). Before being eligible for the Board of Allergists exams, the candidate must complete nine years of training beyond college. The best way to prepare for this specialized training is to begin early.
Take advanced courses in high school. Classes in chemistry and biology taken during high school will provide a good foundation for the student during college and medical school. Make certain that the high school curriculum includes course work in composition and writing. An allergist must be able to write patient histories and communicate with patients and other medical professionals.
College studies should include premedical classes. Both organic and inorganic chemistry, math and social studies will be useful to the student preparing for a career as an allergist.
The successful candidate will do very well in medical school, getting good grades through all four years. The course of study in medical school will include training in hospitals and clinics. After medical school, an allergist is required to complete three years of training as either a pediatrician or internal medicine specialist. These specialties require an additional three years of study. Upon completing the required studies for either pediatrics or internal medicine, the candidate must become certified by the board that governs their chosen specialty.
Before sitting for the Board of Allergy and Immunology exams, a medical student generally does a fellowship study in an immunology and allergy training program. Once the fellowship study is complete, the student may take the American Board of Allergy and Immunology exam. Successful completion of the exam, the physician is a Certified Allergy and Asthma Consultant.
After completing their training and successfully passing the ABA exam, an allergist can chose from several career paths. Some allergists work in a clinical setting, identifying allergies in patients and treating those who suffer from allergies. Since allergists also study immunology, allergists may work with patients who suffer from diseases of the immune system like HIV and Lupus. Many allergists who elect to specialize in pediatrics may opt to work with adults and children who suffer from allergies in a clinical setting, helping them to manage their allergies. Those who study internal medicine may be more interested in working with the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Still other allergists work in the laboratory, researching autoimmune diseases and working on new drugs to treat these diseases.
Allergists help improve the quality of life for their patients by helping to manage their symptoms. Patients with severe allergy symptoms who are under the care of a certified allergist have fewer days of illness and make fewer trips to the emergency room annually.