Many Americans Unsure Which Specialist to Go to For Allergies

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It is estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies. Although allergy is the 5th leading chronic disease in the United States among all ages, as many as 60% do not realize that there is a medical specialist who can help patients find relief, finds a survey commissioned by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

The survey, conducted online between on January 27th and 28th, 2011, including data from 1,020 men and women 18 years of age and older. It was conducted by ONLINE CARAVAN, a service of ORC International.

More than a third of respondents had allergies themselves, including allergic rhinitis, asthma, hay fever, sinus allergies, eye allergies, food allergies, or skin allergies (ie: eczema or hives).

Read: Managing Your Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Most adults surveyed recognized that allergies are serious and can be a life-threatening ailment. Women were more likely to understand the seriousness, with 47% saying that they can cause death. One quarter of those surveyed, however, said that the condition can make you miserable, but is not serious.

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Each year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies account for more than 17 million outpatient office visits and 30,000 visits to the emergency room. The annual cost of allergies is estimated to be nearly $7 billion.

Although most understand that allergies are serious and should be treated, only 21% correctly identified an allergist as a medical specialist trained in treating the condition. Twenty-nine percent of respondents named a general practitioner, family doctor or internist as the physician to see for allergic reactions.

Read: Food Allergy Affects Nearly 3 Percent of Americans

“Allergists are the best trained specialist to treat anyone with allergic conditions,” says Stanley Fineman MD, president-elect of the ACAAI. “Allergists conduct appropriate testing to identify what’s triggering the allergy, its severity, and the best treatment plan.”

An allergist is a medical doctor who is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases and conditions such as asthma, hay fever, sinus infections, eye allergies, reactions to food and drugs, skin allergies, and immune system problems that might cause frequent infections. He or she completes a three-year residency program in either internal medicine or pediatrics and then two or three more years of study in the field of asthma, allergy and immunology.

Patients can identify an allergy expert by looking for the “allergist” logo, or by searching the database located at www.acaai.org.

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