Dr Shelley Dua, ST7 in allergy, and Dr Shuaib Nasser, consultant in allergy and asthma and president of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, give advice for trainees and students interested in finding out more about allergy. They share why they both decided upon a career in the specialty, why allergy is such an interesting and innovative area and what opportunities there are for research in the specialty.
Allergy is a medical specialty which focuses on diagnosing and managing patients with a range of allergic conditions including asthma, eczema, food allergy, rhinitis and drug allergy. It is a standalone speciality and unlike other related specialties does not involve any routine laboratory work.
The specialty has a lot to offer different people. The patient population is broad and, although increasingly divided into paediatric and adult allergy, many allergists manage infants through to elderly people with allergic disease. The job offers huge variety, ranging from diagnosing allergy and interpreting allergy tests, desensitising patients to life-threatening allergies such as wasp venom allergy and peanut allergy, excluding or proving drug allergy by challenging patients to suspected drugs, and providing specialist management of patients with severe asthma.
Currently there is a global epidemic of allergy and the incidence of allergic disease has trebled in the last 30 years. As a result of this there is a massive potential for research and the specialty offers fantastic opportunities for applicants interested in an academic path or those interested in teaching. Furthermore, the growing burden of allergy means that there is currently a shortage of full-time allergy specialists and thus the outlook for consultant posts is extremely positive.
Although hay fever and other allergies likely have a long history, serious medical study of the subject did not start until the 19th century. Find out more in our blog post 'The story of an allergy: coming to understand hay fever'.