Specialty Overview

An allergist-immunologist diagnoses and manages disorders involving immune system conditions such as asthma, anaphylaxix, rhinitis and eczema as well as adverse reactions to drugs, foods and insect stings; also immune deficiency diseases and problems related to autoimmune disease, organ transplantation, or malignancies of the immune system. No subspecialty certificates in allergy and immunology are offered. However, formal special pathways are available for physicians seeking dual certification in Allergy/Immunology and Pediatric Pulmonology; Allergy and Immunology and Pediatric Rheumatology; and Allergy and Immunology and Adult Rheumatology. Additional information is available from the board.

What is an allergist-immunologist?

An allergist/immunologist is a physician specifically trained to diagnose, treat and manage children and adults with allergies, asthma and immunologic disorders including primary immunodeficiency disorders. Conditions seen by allergy/immunology specialists range from the very common to the very rare, span all ages, and encompass various organ systems.

The specialty of allergy/immunology is a challenging, interesting and evolving discipline with opportunities to work with patients of all ages with common as well as rare disorders. Although the practice of allergy/immunology occurs predominantly in the outpatient setting, inpatient consultations can become an important part of the practice. Many allergists/immunologists choose clinical careers in either private office or teaching hospital clinics, while others are involved primarily in research at medical schools or in government or industry. Academic allergists/immunologists frequently combine patient care with medical school teaching and research.

What does an allergist-immunologist do?

Allergists and clinical immunologists are specialists trained to evaluate, diagnose and manage children and adults with the following types of medical problems and/or conduct basic, translational or clinical research on these types of disorders:

  • Diseases of the respiratory tract including allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and occupational lung diseases

  • Allergic diseases of the eye including allergic rhinitis

  • Diseases of the skin including atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis, urticaria and angioedema

  • Adverse reactions to foods, drugs, vaccines, stinging insects and other agents

  • Gastrointestinal disorders caused by immune responses to foods including eosinophilic esophagitis and food protein-induced enteropathies

  • Immune-based disorders such as severe combined immunodeficiency syndromes and other primary or acquired deficiencies in lymphocytes, antibody, complement or phagocytic cells

  • Diseases associated with autoimmune responses to self-antigens and autoinflammatory syndromes

  • Stem cell, bone marrow, and/or organ transplantation and gene therapy

  • Systemic disorders including anaphylaxis, mastocytosis and mast cell activation syndromes, hypereosinophilic syndromes and vasculitis

How to become an allergist-immunologist?

Specialty training required prior to certification: Prior certification in Internal Medicine or Pediatrics; two years in Allergy and Immunology.

In the United States, becoming an allergist/ immunologist requires at least an additional nine years of training beyond a bachelor’s degree. After completing medical school, physicians complete three years of residency training in pediatrics or internal medicine or four years of combined medicine/pediatrics, and pass an examination to become certified by either the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) or the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). This is followed by two years of additional training in an allergy/immunology fellowship program and certification by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI) after successfully passing their certification examination. Diplomates of the ABAI possess in-depth knowledge of disorders of the immune system and have unique expertise in immunobiology, immunochemistry, inflammatory and autoinflammatory disorders and the use of immunomodulatory treatments for allergies, asthma and immune-mediated disorders.

Related Training

Association

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
555 E. Wells St., Suite 1100
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 272-6071
aaaai.org

American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
85 W. Algonquin Road, Suite 550
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
(847) 427-1200
acaai.org

Clinical Immunology Society
555 E. Wells St., Suite 1100
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 224-8095
clinimmsoc.org