When to Contact an Allergist vs ENT
It’s common for people with allergy symptoms to go directly to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor for treatment. ENT doctors are surgeons who are experts in resolving structural problems involving the head, face, sinuses, nose, throat and voice box. Allergist/immunologists are expert physicians who manage inflammatory (allergic) conditions of the nose, sinuses, ears, throat and lungs without surgery. Symptoms such as trouble breathing, sinus pressure, episodic ear discomfort, or a raspy voice can be caused by allergies and may not require surgery.
If you’re wondering whether your symptoms require visiting an Allergist or ENT doctor, continue reading to help decide the right course of action for you.
When to See an Allergist
Allergists/Immunologists are highly trained specialists that diagnose, treat, and manage allergic inflammation of all types through nonsurgical methods.
Allergies are caused when the immune system decides that an otherwise harmless substance is now a threat (i.e. pollens, mold, dust mite, pet dander and foods). Symptoms can be mild or severe, and in some cases, can lead to a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis when triggered by foods, stinging insects or medications. Allergic reactions to environmental substances are very common and usually cause recurrent nasal congestion, uncomfortable facial pressure, nasal drainage, throat clearing, and/or sneezing. Many people with environmental allergies frequently complain of having chronic “sinus headaches” or sinus pain.
There is no doubt that allergies can have a major impact on the quality of life for people of all ages. Unfortunately, many people struggling with allergic nasal or sinus problems do not realize their symptoms are due to allergies and believe that their condition is untreatable. Fortunately, these symptoms can usually be effectively managed or even prevented with an Allergist’s help.
Allergists can help prevent allergic symptoms by turning off the allergic process. Since allergen avoidance is the only true “cure” for allergies, it is important for Allergists to know if a person has allergic triggers so that they may be avoided. Allergy testing can detect relevant allergies and allows the Allergist to determine the most effective therapies to improve the person’s quality of life. Such therapies include focused allergen avoidance measures, appropriate medication use and, in some cases, allergen immunotherapy. Allergen immunotherapy is a very important tool and is the ultimate allergy treatment, which retrains the immune system to stop reacting to allergens– thereby preventing allergic symptoms in the first place and decreasing the need for medications.
Of course, allergies can affect other parts of the body including the skin, eyes, lungs, gastrointestinal system, inner ears, and sinuses. Allergists are the experts who treat all allergic symptoms, no matter which part of the body is affected, Before heading straight to an ENT for chronic sinus pressure, it may be best to consult with an Allergist particularly you have a family history of allergies or asthma.
Common reasons to see an Allergist/ Immunologist include:
- Frequent sinus infections
- Sinus or facial pressure
- Ear fullness, pressure, or popping in the ears
- Itching in the ears or back of the throat
- Nasal congestion, difficulty breathing through the nose, runny nose, sneezing
- Itchy, red, or watery eyes
- Recurrent throat clearing or post nasal drainage
- Voice changes or hoarseness
- Chronic cough
- Asthma, shortness of breath, wheezing
- Recurring bronchitis
- Atopic dermatitis
- Concern for food allergies
When to See an ENT
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology– Head and Neck Surgery, otolaryngologists (ENTs) specialize in dealing with disorders and conditions of the ear, nose, and throat, including related areas of the neck and head. ENT doctors are experts in surgical and medical management of:
- Ear: ENT specialists treat ear disorders or conditions such as ear infections, hearing loss, balance disorders (vertigo), pain in your ear, or ringing in the ears (tinnitus). ENT doctors can also treat ear disorders you were born with.
- Head and Neck: If you experience cancerous tumors, deformities, trauma, or diseases of the neck, face, and head, ENT doctors can do cosmetic and reconstructive surgery in these areas. Problems with nerves in the head and neck controlling smell, sight, hearing, and facial movements can also be managed.
- Nose: ENT doctors often manage and treat issues affecting the nose, sinuses, and nasal cavity. These issues may affect your breathing, smell, or physical appearance.
- Throat: An ENT doctor can help manage and treat conditions or disorders of the throat can affect your eating, swallowing, digestion, speech, and even singing.
Common reasons to see an ENT specialist include:
- Cancer and tumors in the head and neck
- Nerve problems, pain, or injury to your ears, nose, or throat
- Breathing problems originating in nose or throat
- Tonsil or adenoid infection
- Dizziness and balance issues
- Chronic sinusitis
- Ear infections
- Hearing impairment
- Swallowing or voice problems
- Cleft palate
- Deviated septum
- And more
Putting it all together
Allergists/immunologists and ENT’s often work together to maximize control of nasal/sinus congestion and it’s entirely possible you may require evaluation from both specialists. Allergists will often refer patients to ENT’s when surgery is needed and ENT’s often refer patients to allergists when a formal allergy assessment is required.
Allergies are not the only cause of nasal symptoms. So if you have a known structural problem or suspect one, then an ENT specialist would be a good first choice. But if you suspect that you have a sinus or breathing issues related to allergies or asthma, consider seeing a Board Certified Allergist/Immunologist who can help diagnose, treat, and effectively control your symptoms through non-surgical methods.
Are you wondering if you may be suffering from allergies? Call the experts at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida to schedule an appointment today.
Sources: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and American Academy of Otolaryngology– Head and Neck Surgery