What Is An Allergist: An Open Letter
Education and Advocacy Finding a doctor that specializes in allergies — an allergist — can help improve your quality of life.
Allergies affect at least 25 to 30 percent of all Canadians and cost the country millions of dollars per year in both direct and indirect costs. Although allergic diseases mainly cause discomfort in patients, some types of allergies — like allergic asthma and anaphylaxis — can be deadly.
I’m the President of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI) and proud to be an allergist. Allergists are armed with extra knowledge to help in the treatment of conditions like allergic rhinitis (hay fever), anaphylaxis, food allergies, atopic dermatitis (eczema), asthma, immunodeficiency, drug allergies, and chronic urticaria (hives).
An allergist is a physician who has received an extra two years of training in the study of allergic diseases. To be a board certified allergist, a doctor must first pass exams in internal medicine or pediatrics, followed by a further period of training and a second set of exams.
The CSACI is the group that represents certified allergists across Canada. Patients should be aware that there are a number of physicians in Canada who publicize themselves as “allergists”, but are not members of our Society. Our website, www.csaci.ca, has a database of certified practitioners in Canada. Use the website’s Find an Allergist feature to find a specialist near you.
Not everyone with allergies will necessarily go on to see an allergist. A number of consultations are done simply to inform people of what they’re allergic to. If their allergies are causing medical complications or worsening their quality of life, this knowledge can be all that’s needed to turn things around.
Assessing people with asthma is especially important. Reasons for referral to an allergist would include the identification of triggers and management strategies for conditions like allergic rhinitis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, and chronic urticaria.
Do you have allergies? Signs include chronic runny nose, sinus problems, shortness of breath or wheezing, skin itching or rashes, and itchy or watery eyes. If someone has a possible incident of anaphylaxis — a severe episode of shortness of breath with hives, vomiting, and dizziness — they should always receive a consultation.
If you’re interested in seeing an allergist in Canada, you must first obtain a referral from your primary care physician or a nurse practitioner. In Ontario, specifically, if you directly contact a board certified allergist’s office for an appointment, they will mention this as a prerequisite for an appointment and will have to wait until there is a proper referral.