Allergist/immunologists are physicians trained in the diagnosis, treatment and management of allergic reactions and immunologic disorders, ranging from common and simple to rare and complex.

Watch an Overview of Allergy / Immunology

About Allergy / Immunology

The field of allergy/immunology is a combined medical specialty that draws upon the care provided by both allergists and immunologists. Generally speaking, these two areas of medicine are separate and distinct, with the care provided by an allergist often differing from that of an immunologist. Nonetheless, the areas do overlap and have many similarities regarding the nature and spectrum of care. For this reason, the two specialties are often combined and many physicians choose to seek training in both areas.

Allergists are physicians that have been trained to diagnose, treat and manage the wide range of allergic reactions and allergies. Allergists are capable of performing diagnostic tests to pinpoint immune-mediated reactions to a wide range of relatively innocuous stimuli in their patients. These stimuli can include medications, food, seasonal stimuli, pet stimuli, and other biological allergens. When treating patients, allergists often provide a personalized management plan, as each patient will have a unique response from their immune system. Treatment for allergies usually comes in the form of management of the condition. This may include the prescription of medications, allergy shots and other preventive measures (such as avoiding certain stimuli).

Immunologists are trained to deal with conditions of the immune system above and beyond that of allergic reactions. The human immune system can be affect by either immunodeficiency or autoimmune disorders, which are distinct from one another. Immunodeficiency disorders are those that affect the immune system’s capacity to fight infectious diseases – the immune system is either weakened, or its functioning is altogether absent. Immunodeficiency disorders or diseases include common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), DiGeorge’s syndrome and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), among many others. Autoimmune disorders treated by immunologists include multiple sclerosis, Addison’s disease, atopic dermatitis, hepatitis and eczema, among many other disorders and diseases.

Depending upon the patient’s diagnosis and severity of disease, the allergist/immunologist is trained to concoct a unique and personalized treatment plan to manage or suppress the condition. Allergist/immunologists are specifically and uniquely trained to deal with conditions ranging from the very common to the very rare and multifaceted.

Allergy / Immunology Education & Training

The education and training path to become an allergist/immunologist begins with the completion of an undergraduate degree focused on the scientific areas such as biology, chemistry and physiology, although other areas may be pursued. Following completion of a bachelor’s degree, the student must attend medical school and earn a four year MD or DO medical degree.

After graduating from medical school, the student must complete residency training at a hospital or medical center. Most allergist/immunologists complete a two to three year residency program in areas such as pediatrics or internal medicine. Following successful completion of residency training, the physician must seek state licensure. After earning a license to practice medicine, the physician must then complete additional training in the form of a fellowship. Fellowship training programs in the field of allergy and immunology allow physicians to expand their knowledge of the diagnosis and treatment of allergy and immunological disorders.

During the fellowship, the physician is generally exposed to two years of clinical patient care and/or research relating specifically to immunology; the physician typically sees both adults and children. However, depending upon the type of fellowship, the physician’s residency training and their overall career goals, they may be able to focus on one age demographic or type of immunological disorder. Many allergist/immunologists choose to pursue board certification from either the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI).