Overview of Allergists

An allergist/immunologist is a physician trained to prevent, diagnose, manage, and treat allergic disease. As a result of extensive study and training, allergists/immunologists are highly qualified to manage immune system disorders such as allergies, asthma, inherited immunodeficiency diseases, and autoimmune diseases.

Conditions that are often treated by allergists/immunologists include the following:

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Allergist Educational Requirements

Allergists/immunologists must complete 4 years of premedical education at a college or university, followed by at least 4 years of medical school resulting in a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) degree. Premedical students complete undergraduate classes in biology, English, the humanities, mathematics, physics, social sciences, and inorganic and organic chemistry.

During the first 2 years of medical school, students take courses in anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and classes in laws governing medicine. They also learn how to perform a medical history, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses.

During the final 2 years of medical school, students care for patients in hospitals and clinics, under the supervision of experienced physicians. In this setting, medical students learn acute, chronic, preventive, and rehabilitative care through rotations in internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery.

After completing medical school, the physician must complete 3 years of additional training in either internal medicine or pediatrics to become an allergist/immunologist. Following this residency, the internist must pass the examination of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and the pediatrician must pass the examination of the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP).

Allergist Board Certification

The internist or pediatrician who wishes to specialize in allergy/immunology then must complete at least 2 years of study (called a fellowship) in an allergy/immunology training program. To be certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI), allergists/immunologists must successfully pass a certifying examination administered by ABAI following completion of their fellowship.

To diagnose allergies, allergists/immunologists take a thorough patient history, including information about symptoms; family history; and home, work, and school environments. The allergist/immunologist also may perform allergy skin testing and other diagnostic tests. Studies show that patients who are treated by an allergist/immunologist are better able to manage allergy and asthma symptoms.

Publication Review By: Michael Miller, M.D.

Published: 01 May 2005

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2011