Updated:

November 17, 2022

What's The Difference Between An Allergist and An ENT?

If you are one of the millions of Americans plagued by nasal allergies, you likely know all too well how frustrating and unpleasant they can be. At times, your symptoms can make it difficult to sleep, work, and even enjoy your favorite activities. When you're dealing with a suspected allergy, it can be tempting to book a quick appointment at the first walk-in clinic that offers your preferred treatment options. The care that Allergists and Ear, Nose, and Throat physicians (ENTs) provide often overlap. However, there are differences that are important to note. Let's take a look at those differences between an Allergist and an ENT.

What is an allergist?

An Allergist, or Allergy Immunologist is a physician who manages inflammatory conditions throughout the body, many of which include the nose, sinuses, ears, throat, and lungs. Your primary care provider would normally refer you to an Allergist with conditions such as hay fever, food allergies, hives, eczema, asthma as well as sinus and ear infections. 

What kind of training does an allergist go through?

Allergists are medical doctors who have specifically trained in the field of allergy/immunology. Like most physicians, they spend four years in medical school. Most then go on to an internship and residency in Internal Medicine or Pediatrics for another three years. At this point, they would typically take a board examination to become certified by the American Board of Pediatrics or the American Board of Internal Medicine. Following all of that, a one to two year allergy and immunology fellowship is completed. Finally, they take another exam to be certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

In what type of practice would you find allergists or ENT doctors?

Allergists and ENT’s typically practice as an individual doctor or in a group practice.  Group practices are either single-speciality, or multispeciality. Single-speciality practices would refer to groups of only allergists or ENT’s while multispecialty groups typically have many different specialties represented such as Family medicine, Internal medicine, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, etc.  Few groups in the US combine only Allergists and ENT’s, but we think it offers the perfect balance of care when it comes to allergies, nasal and sinus problems for kids and adults.  

What is an ENT?

ENT doctors, also known as otolaryngologists, are head and neck surgeons treating conditions such as cancer, infections and allergies involving the ear, nose, throat, and sinuses, sleep disorders, voice and swallowing problems, as well as hearing and balance problems. Most treat all of these conditions and are considered general otolaryngologists. Our ENT specialists focus only on sinus and nasal problems.

What kind of training does it take to become an ENT?

After four years of medical school, ENT’s complete a one year general surgery internship followed by a four to five year otolaryngology, head and neck surgery training program. They must pass verbal and written examinations to receive board certification by the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery.

There is no specific patient that an ENT can see and treat. An ENT doctor can diagnose, manage and treat patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. 

What does Board Certified mean?

Board certification is a rigorous training and testing program that establishes a physician's expertise in a particular medical specialty. It is a national certification. Medical licensure is a state-administered process setting the minimum competency requirements to diagnose and treat patients. It is not specialty specific. It means that your specialist has gone above and beyond the minimum competency requirements set by medical licensure and has demonstrated their dedication to keeping up with advances in medical science and technology.

When to see an allergist:

If you experience any of the following symptoms for long periods of time throughout the year, then it may be time to book a consultation with an allergist near you:

 

When to see an ENT:

Our ENT specialists take care of many of these same conditions but also offer surgical correction of structural problems involving the nose, sinuses, and eustachian tube when medical therapies aren’t effective. They frequently perform the following procedures:

Check out this video about Eustachian Tube Dysfunction - an issue an ENT would treat:

The Aspire combination

Our Allergy and ENT specialists work together and learn from one another to give each doctor new ways of looking at problems. All of our Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners learn this ‘combined’ approach so that every patient is evaluated in this manner. Rather than visiting two different specialists, Aspire gives you both in one visit. 

 

If I have chronic sinusitis and allergies, which doctor do I go to?

Normally this is confusing, because both specialties treat these conditions. All Aspire providers routinely take care of these problems and have an in-depth understanding of both medical and surgical options for therapy. Years of allergies often lead to structural problems causing blockage of the sinuses. If you aren’t getting relief with medical treatments, we perform minimally invasive procedures such as balloon sinuplasty. With our in-house anesthesiologists, we re-open the sinuses in 10-15 minutes and have you back to work or school the next day. Of course we want the relief to last a lifetime, so we also work to eliminate those allergies.

 

How can you tell what I’m allergic to?

There are a variety of allergy tests, but the most accurate method involves skin testing. We offer both blood and skin testing depending on the needs of the patient. Our Aspire Allergy & Sinus allergy testing is specific to your region, looking for 58 of the most common allergens. We perform both prick testing (in the upper layers of the skin) and intradermal testing (immediately below the upper skin layer) to get the best understanding of your allergies.

 

At Aspire Allergy & Sinus, our goal is your life-long relief. Whether you have an isolated problem like pollen allergies, or more complex issues such as constant stuffiness and sinus pressure from allergy induced nasal polyps, we have the expertise to find the problem and the resources to fix it, all under one roof. So what are you waiting for? Book your appointment today!

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About The Author:

Chris Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson focuses solely on allergy, sinus and nasal treatment and is considered an expert in all three fields. He is one of a handful of doctors that played an integral role in the development of the cutting-edge sinus procedure, Balloon Sinuplasty.