What Allergists Do
Allergists diagnose, monitor, and treat allergies and related conditions like asthma, eczema and hay fever. You may need to find an allergist if you've experienced food allergy symptoms, if your pediatrician or general practitioner wants to refer you for further allergy testing, or if you've moved and need an already diagnosed allergy monitored or treated.
What to Look For in an Allergist
In some cases, you may be limited by a scarcity of allergists in your geographic area or by your health insurance. Much of the time, however, you'll have a choice of allergists in your geographic area. You'll want to look for many of the same things you'd look for in any medical practitioner: an organized and well-run practice, willingness to answer your questions, and an appropriate background with respect to credentials, certifications, and continuing education. About.com Patient Empowerment Guide Trisha Torrey has several resources that can help you determine what's most important to you in your future doctor:
Resources for Finding a Great Allergist
Two of the best places to find allergists are through your general practitioner and through family, friends, or other acquaintances who are currently seeing, or have previously seen, an allergist. Your GP may have a list of allergists she's comfortable recommending patients to, and friends and family who have used a medical practice will usually be forthright about a doctor's strengths and weaknesses.
Online resources can also help you make a decision. UCompareHealthCare allows you to search allergists in a given geographic area and will provide you with free reports on board certifications, disciplinary actions, hospital affiliation, and education -- all things you'll want to know about before you settle on a practice.
Two other online allergy-specific resources can help you find allergists and immunologists certified by two of the major specialty boards: the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). The ACAAI offers a phone referral service in addition to their online search, while the AAAAI's search allows you to narrow down practitioners by allergy subspecialty.