Thanks to our state’s temperate climate, Texans are bombarded year round with an abundance of oak, ragweed, and mountain cedar pollen, to name a few irritants, and each of these can produce that all-too-familiar allergic reaction characterized by nasal congestion and runny nose, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, and wheezing. Beyond pollen in the air, our allergies can be complicated by things like pet dander, dust mites and mold. Faced with an allergic reaction, most of us just try to tough it out—but if your symptoms become severe enough that they cause you to miss school or work, you should probably see an allergist, a medical doctor who specializes in treating severe allergic reactions.

Get some referrals. You might start by asking your personal care physician for referrals, but also ask relatives and friends for their suggestions as well. When you have some names, check online reviews to see how satisfied previous patients have been with the treatment they’ve received.

Verify their credentials. Board certification is important in choosing an allergist as certification tells you the physician has the training, skills, and experience needed to provide health care in this field of specialty.

Medical training in this field is quite extensive and demanding. A physician desiring to become an allergist must complete a residency in either general pediatrics or general medicine, followed by a two-to-three-year fellowship during which the physician focuses on treating allergic and immunologic disorders in both children and adults. Only then are they qualified to apply for board certification.

In the United States, the American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI) establishes the qualifications and administers tests to physicians who want to become board certified specialists in allergy and immunology treatment. And you want an allergist who is board certified.

Check on licensing. In addition to checking on board certification, you also want to make sure they’re licensed and have no history of disciplinary actions or malpractice claims. In Texas, you can go to the website of the Texas Medical Board and find licensing information.

Once you have found an allergist you think may be suitable for you, schedule an initial consultation. In advance, gather information on any and all previous allergy test results and be prepared to explain the details of your symptoms. It’s also a good idea to bring a list of questions for the doctor. During the consultation make sure they’re listening to your questions and concerns and they’re explaining treatment options in language you can understand.

If you can find a specialist who’s willing to spend time with you listening to your concerns, has a good “bedside manner,” and communicates clearly, the chances are good you’ve found the allergist who’s right for you.