In the United States, one out of four people suffer from allergic diseases, such as asthma, hay fever, food allergy, eczema and insect allergy. Severe asthma and allergic attacks can result in hospitalization or death. Medical science has yet to find a cure for allergic conditions. Physicians help patients manage their asthma or allergies through treatment and prevention education. Patients may be under the care of a family doctors or medical specialists known as allergists and pulmonologists.
Medical specialists have completed additional clinical training to diagnose and treat diseases that affect specific organs and organ systems. Allergists are experts in the human immune system and the management of asthma, allergies and other immune system disorders. Pulmonologists are experts in the conditions and diseases affecting the lungs and bronchial tubes. They are also concerned with the cardiopulmonary system, which is the combined function of the heart, lungs, blood vessels and other organs that allow people to breathe.
Allergists and pulmonologists work in private practices, medical clinics and hospitals. These medical specialists examine patients, obtain their medical histories and conduct appropriate tests to assess and diagnose their conditions. They then prescribe and administer treatment that may include medications, devices and injections. They also counsel patients about preventative measures to take to help reduce their symptoms.
Education and Training
Allergists and pulmonologists undergo years of training before they may practice their specialties. After earning bachelor's degrees, they complete four years of medical school to earn a doctor of medicine degree or a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree. They then fulfill a one-year internship, also known as their post-graduate clinical year, at a hospital where they rotate through family practice, internal medicine and other practices. After completing their internships, they enter a three-year graduate medical education, or residency, program. Individuals who will work with adults do a residency in internal medicine, while those who will work with children undertake a residency in pediatrics.
Upon finishing their residencies, individuals enter fellowship training programs in their specialties. A fellowship may be two or three years long, depending on the specialty. For example, pediatric pulmonologists complete a three-year fellowship.
License and Board Certification
Allergists and pulmonologists hold medical licenses issued by state medical boards. Many of these medical specialists voluntarily obtain board certification granted by medical specialty boards. Physicians must first be certified in internal medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine or in pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics before they may pursue certification in their specialty. Allergists are certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.
In May 2010, the Allied Physicians Web site reported that specialists in allergy and immunology earned a base annual salary of $158,000 during their first two years in practice, while pulmonologists who specialize in critical care earned a base annual salary of $215,000. Base salaries for allergists with more then three years ranged from $221,000 to $487,000, and for pulmonologists from $288,000 to $417,000.
- ABC News/Health: When Should I See An Asthma Specialist, And Do I Need A Pulmonologist?
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicians and Surgeons: Significant Points
- American College of Physicians: Subspecialist
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
- llied Physicians: Physician Salary Survey -- Physician Salaries
- Photo Credit doctor visiting image by TEMISTOCLE LUCARELLI from Fotolia.com
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