The Allergist vs. The Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor


Before coming to our Knoxville, Tennessee office some patients wonder if they should be seeing an allergist or an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor. The ENT seems like a sensible choice to many. They deal with the areas most often affected by allergy symptoms. Some tend to believe that the allergist should only be consulted during allergy season and the ENT is for the rest of the year. This is not necessarily best for patients.

The ENT are surgeons who focus mainly on the structural problems of the ear, nose, and throat. They tend to be focused on those complexities and concerns that can be corrected via surgery. The ENT’s training will typically have them focus on looking for a structural cause for a patient’s concerns. The will often look for bone and cartilage defects, which can be corrected through surgery, first. Patients should see an ENT specialist when they are having difficulties with nasal breathing, are experiencing a sore throat or raspy voice, and/or when they have difficulties with hearing clearly. Most of these problems, however, may not be due to structural problems the ENT can fix with surgery and may in fact be caused by allergies. In fact, more than 50% of sinus difficulties are caused by allergies, with the majority of the remaining percentage caused by a combination of allergy and non-allergy related symptoms. 

Because allergies are very likely to be the cause of symptoms many ENT specialist offer allergy testing. However, ENTs typically have received less than two weeks of allergy training, which has to cover a wide variety of potential allergens, reactions, tests, test interpretations, and treatment options. In contrast an allergist receives two years of training in the diagnosis, management and treatment of allergic diseases. An allergists primary focus is on allergies. It’s their specialization and they are best qualified to test for allergies and evaluate those tests.

Considering the prevalence of allergies as a potential cause of symptoms in the ear, nose, and throat an allergist shouldn’t be relegated to simply allergy season visits. The allergist is best qualified to determine if a patient is experiencing an allergic reaction, to what they are allergic to, and what course of action should be taken, and, if allergies may not be the cause, they can refer patients to an ENT specialist to investigate potential structural problems.

For more information about allergies and allergy testing visit the Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Center.