Your first stop in finding treatment for your nasal allergies is your primary care doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an allergy specialist for further treatment of your allergies.
Your Primary Care Doctor
This is your so-called regular doctor whom you see for most of your health concerns. Here's what your primary care doctor can do for you.
- help resolve your allergy symptoms
- rule out other problems that might be causing your symptoms
- give you a referral to an allergy specialist if you need one
Many insurance plans require that you see your primary care doctor first.
An allergy specialist, or allergist, is a doctor who has an extra 2 to 3 years of training in the diagnosis of allergies and asthma and in immunology. Board-certified allergists have passed a rigorous exam given by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. While board certification isn't a guarantee that this is the right doctor for you, it does mean the allergy specialist has met the advanced licensing requirements of the specialty.
Where to Find an Allergy Specialist
If you or your doctor have decided you would benefit from seeing an allergy specialist, you have to know where to find one and how to choose among them. Your regular doctor can provide you with referrals to allergy specialists in your area. Your health insurance company or health maintenance organization (HMO) may have an approved list of allergy specialists. You can also ask friends and family for names of specialists they recommend.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology maintains a list of allergy specialists in your area. Call 1-800-842-7777. Or check their Web site at www.acaai.org. Also, the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology sponsors a physician referral service that can be found at www.aaaai.org.
Finding an allergy specialist is only the first step. The next is deciding whether the allergy specialist is someone with whom you can work.
What to Look for When Choosing an Allergy Specialist
Here are some questions you should ask before selecting your allergist:
- What is your training in allergy and immunology?
- How long have you been treating nasal allergies?
- Are you board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology?
- What role do you feel avoidance plays in controlling nasal allergies?
- What role do you feel the patient has in controlling nasal allergies?
- How do you feel about immunotherapy?
The doctor's answers to these questions should give you a sense of the kind of doctor he or she is. They should also help you decide whether or not you are comfortable with the doctor's background and approach to the treatment of allergies.
How to Assess Your Allergy Specialist
After your initial visit with the allergy specialist, ask yourself these questions:
- Did the allergy specialist take a thorough personal and family medical history?
- Did he or she conduct a physical exam? Did it include an examination of my nose, eyes, mouth, throat, and lungs?
- Did the allergy specialist take the time to thoroughly explain my condition and the treatment options for allergies?
- Did the allergy specialist use terms I understood?
- Was the allergy specialist willing to give me all the information I need to make informed choices?
- Do I feel comfortable with this doctor? Is this someone I feel I can work with over time?
If you answer no to any of these questions, you may want to consider starting a new search for an allergy specialist.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Written by Karen Serrano, MD Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Reviewed by Lisa V. Suffian, MD
Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine
Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Saint Louis University
Board certified in Allergy and Immunology
Last updated June 2008