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What is an Immunologist? Conditions They Treat and When to Seek Help

April 1st, 2024 | 3 min. read

By Nerissa D'Silva, MD

What is an Immunologist?

What is an Immunologist

Your immune system is your body's tireless protector, a sophisticated network of cells, tissues, and organs that stand guard against a vast world of pathogens. However, when this complex system goes awry, it can lead to a broad range of health problems. That's where immunologists come into play – they're the medical detectives specializing in diagnosing and managing disorders of the immune system. If you're in the Houston area and experiencing health issues that seem to defy explanation, an immunologist might hold the answers you need.

What is an Immunologist?

Immunologists are medical doctors who undergo years of specialized training beyond their medical degree. This training delves deep into the intricacies of how the immune system functions, how it combats disease, and the various ways it can malfunction. Immunologists are your go-to experts in Houston for problems ranging from seasonal allergies to life-altering autoimmune diseases and everything in between.


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Conditions Immunologists Treat

Immunologists tackle a diverse spectrum of conditions related to an immune system that's either overreacting or failing to do its job correctly. Here's a deeper look at the main categories:

  • Allergies:

    • Seasonal Allergies (Hay Fever): Houston's notorious allergens like oak pollen, ragweed, and mold can trigger sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion. Immunologists determine what you're allergic to and help you avoid triggers or develop treatment plans that may include medications, nasal sprays, and allergy shots (immunotherapy).

    • Food Allergies: Peanuts, shellfish, eggs – what seems harmless to some can be dangerous to others. Immunologists diagnose food allergies and advise strict avoidance or recommend treatments like oral immunotherapy (OIT) for certain food allergies.

    • Drug Allergies: Medication reactions can range from mild rashes to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Immunologists distinguish between true allergies and other side effects to help you safely navigate the medications you need.

    • Insect Sting Allergies: For those with severe reactions, immunologists offer testing and potentially venom immunotherapy to reduce the risk of future severe stings.

  • Asthma:

    While treated by pulmonologists (lung specialists), asthma often involves allergy and immune system triggers. Houston immunologists work in tandem with other specialists to identify these triggers and use targeted medications to enhance asthma control.

  • Primary Immunodeficiencies:

    These inherited conditions involve missing or flawed parts of the immune system, leaving people vulnerable to infections that might be uncommon or unusually severe. Immunologists diagnose these conditions with specialized blood tests and develop treatment plans possibly including antibiotics, immune globulin therapy, or even bone marrow transplants in severe cases.

  • Autoimmune Diseases:

    • Rheumatoid Arthritis: This inflammatory disease causes painful, swollen joints. Immunologists manage these conditions with medications to suppress the overactive immune response.

    • Lupus: A disease with various symptoms like skin rashes, joint pain, and organ inflammation. Immunologists use different classes of medications depending on how the disease affects individuals.

    • Type 1 Diabetes: The immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. While managed mainly by endocrinologists, immunologists are involved in research for cutting-edge treatments potentially reversing this process.

    • Many others: Multiple Sclerosis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn's, Ulcerative Colitis), Psoriasis, and more: all involve immune system misfires and benefit from an immunologist's expertise.

  • Skin Conditions:

    • Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis): This itchy rash is often linked to immune dysfunction. Immunologists uncover triggers and prescribe topical and systemic medications.

    • Chronic Hives (Urticaria): Immunologists work to determine if these itchy welts have an underlying cause and provide effective treatments.


When to Seek Help from an Immunologist in Houston

Consider seeing a Houston-area immunologist if you experience any of the following:

  • Frequent or severe infections: If you seem to always be battling a cold, have ear infections that won't quit, or face recurrent pneumonia, you might have an undiagnosed immune deficiency.

  • Persistent allergies: When over-the-counter allergy medications aren't cutting it or you have potentially severe reactions (anaphylaxis) to stings, medications, or foods, an immunologist can tailor a treatment plan.

  • Unexplained inflammation: Prolonged swelling, joint pain, rashes, or recurring fevers without a clear cause could signify an immune system problem.

  • Family history of autoimmune or immune system problems: Let your doctor know if these conditions run in your family. An immunologist can assess your risk and recommend monitoring or preventative strategies.


Houston ENT & Allergy is your resource for Immunotherapy

If you're struggling with allergies, recurring infections, unusual inflammation, or any of the conditions mentioned above, don't hesitate to seek help.

The expert immunologists at Houston ENT & Allergy are readily available to partner with you in getting the answers and treatment you need. With multiple locations throughout Houston, finding personalized care for your immune health is convenient and accessible. Visit the Houston ENT & Allergy website ( to learn more, schedule an appointment, or find a location near you.