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Month: May 2022

Infusion Therapies in Allergy and Immunology

There are disease states where medications taken by mouth do not offer enough benefit in either relieving symptoms, stopping the progression of a condition, or preventing complications of a disease. In these instances, medications may need to be administered by means of the parenteral route, such as using a needle or catheter to infuse the medication.

The 2 ways that the administration of medications via the parenteral route can be accomplished include:

1. Intravenous route: A needle or catheter is inserted into a vein and the medication is infused. A peripheral vein in the arms or legs is most commonly used. Rarely a “central” deeply situated vein may need to be catheterized for long-term medication administration.

2. Subcutaneous route: A needle or catheter is inserted just under the skin and the medication is infused. The liquid medication is gradually absorbed into the blood stream from the surrounding “subcutaneous” space.

One of the most common medications used by allergists/immunologists like the one’s at Black & Kletz Allergy are immunoglobulins (i.e., antibodies) which are given by infusion therapy to treat diseases where one’s own immune system is unable to manufacture antibodies to fight infections. These diseases are called primary immunodeficiency diseases (PIDD). Untreated, the patient experiences frequent, severe, and sometimes life-threatening infections. These infections can be prevented by replenishing the body with “outside” antibodies (i.e., antibodies collected from healthy donors) through either intravenous or subcutaneous infusions. In some instances, the therapy is begun as intravenous therapy and then it may be transitioned to the subcutaneous route.


The immunoglobulins that are used to treat these conditions are extracted from the plasma of healthy blood donors. They are usually pooled from thousands of donors, concentrated, and purified. They are treated to prevent transmission of blood borne diseases and then packaged in sterile conditions.


Intravenous infusions generally take approximately 3 to 4 hours each time to infuse. Subcutaneous infusions, on the other hand, can take up to 6 hours to get to the desired place because the solution is gradually absorbed from the site.


Intravenous infusions are usually given once every 4 weeks, whereas the interval between subcutaneous infusions can vary between 1 and 4 weeks depending on the specific product.

Intravenous infusions usually involve 1 needle stick in order to insert a catheter into the vein, whereas subcutaneous infusions may need 2 to 4 different sites (over the abdomen, thighs, etc.) depending on the volume of the solution that needs to be injected.


Patients can be trained to infuse the medications at home by using electric infusion pumps. The infusions are not usually painful. In complex situations, the treatments are given either in doctor’s offices or in infusion centers located in hospitals or free-standing infusion centers.


Intravenous infusions rarely cause systemic side effects. Headache is a commonly reported side effect. Some patients also experience chills and sweating during infusions. These side effects can often be mitigated by slowing down the rate of infusions. After the infusion is completed, some patients may experience fatigue and achiness for a day or two. These side effects can sometimes be prevented or minimized by being premedicated prior to the infusions.

Subcutaneous infusions usually cause fewer systemic side effects than intravenous infusions but they still may cause local reactions such as redness, swelling, and/or pain at the site of administration.


The doses of immunoglobulin infusions are adjusted based on the “trough” or lowest levels (i.e., immediately before the next dose) for IgG antibodies. The goal is to constantly maintain these IgG levels in the normal range.

The frequency and severity of the infections are also closely monitored to assess the effectiveness of the antibody replacement therapy.


In addition to immunoglobulins, other therapeutic agents such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, and biologicals can also be administered either intravenously or subcutaneously for conditions treated by allergists/immunologists. There are a multitude of biologicals on the market and more are becoming available to treat a slew of allergic or immunological conditions such as asthma, eczema (i.e., atopic dermatitis), chronic hives (i.e., urticaria), and chronic rhinitis with nasal polyps. The treatment of food allergies may be another allergic condition in which biologicals may be used in the future depending on the results from ongoing research.

The board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy have treated numerous patients with conditions requiring treatment by the intravenous and subcutaneous routes in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area for more than 50 years. We treat both children and adults and we have offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA. All 3 offices of Black & Kletz Allergy have on-site parking and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible. There is a free shuttle that runs between our McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line. If you would like to be seen for any allergy or immunology condition, please call us to make an appointment or alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond to you within 24 hours of the next business day. Black & Kletz Allergy is proud to continue to provide high quality allergy, asthma, and immunology care to the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

When Hay Fever Symptoms Are Not Allergies?

Hay fever is the common name for allergic rhinitis. The classic symptoms of hay fever or allergic rhinitis may include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy nose, sinus pressure, sinus headaches, itchy throat, itchy eyes, watery eyes, and/or redness of the eyes. In some individuals, respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, and/or shortness of breath can develop. These individuals are then said to have allergic asthma. The cause of hay fever and/or asthma in allergic individuals is due to an allergic response to a foreign allergen such as pollens, molds, dust mites, pets, cockroaches, etc. Our immune system mistakes these allergens as potentially detrimental, and as a result mounts a defensive attack on these allergens when it encounters them.  Biologically, there is a release of chemical substances (e.g., histamine, leukotrienes, prostaglandins) into the tissues inside the nose, eyes and lungs which is responsible for the allergy symptoms.

The diagnosis of hay fever relies on a comprehensive history and physical examination by a board certified allergist in conjunction with allergy testing by either allergy skin testing or allergy blood testing. This is done in order to identify allergies to specific allergens for each individual.

The treatment of hay fever involves avoiding the offending allergens if at all possible. Most of the time however, it is impossible to avoid the exposure to things like dust mites, molds, and pollens. When avoidance is either impossible or unhelpful, allergy medications are usually utilized in order to alleviate the annoying allergy symptoms. Allergy shots (i.e., allergy injections, allergy immunotherapy, allergy desensitization, allergy hyposensitization) are often implemented as a very effective way to combat allergies and asthma. Allergy shots are 80-85% effective and are generally taken for 3-5 years.

Not all individuals with allergy symptoms however are actually “allergic.” These individuals will have negative allergy skin tests or blood tests. If this occurs, the person is said to have non-allergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis. They typically can have the same symptoms as someone with hay fever except they usually do not have itching of the nose, throat, or eyes.

The symptoms in individuals with non-allergic rhinitis may have intermittent symptoms or they can be perennial in nature. The physiology of non-allergic rhinitis is enlargement of the blood vessels inside the nostrils and subsequent leakage of fluids into the surrounding tissues resulting in excessive mucus and swelling of the mucus membrane linings and nasal turbinates. The cause of non-allergic rhinitis is unknown.

The triggers of non-allergic rhinitis may include: environmental irritants (e.g., pollution, dust, smoke, strong odors, fumes, chemical sprays, colognes, perfumes, potpourri, temperature changes, changes in humidity, viral infections (e.g., common cold, influenza), hormonal changes (e.g., thyroid disease, pregnancy, menstruation, emotional or physical stress, sleep apnea, gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease (GERD), alcohol, rhinitis medicamentosa (i.e., prolonged or overuse of over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays such as Afrin or Neosynephrine), gustatory rhinitis (i.e., food-related runny nose caused by an overstimulation of the vagal nerve. It is triggered by eating any type of food, but most often by hot or spicy foods), and various medications [(e.g., ibuprofen, aspirin, certain blood pressure medications (e.g., beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors), antidepressants, sedatives, and oral contraceptives].

The diagnosis of vasomotor or non-allergic rhinitis is established when an individual has the classic symptoms of hay fever but has negative allergy skin tests or blood tests and there is no evidence of infection. It is a diagnosis of exclusion since there are no specific tests to diagnose non-allergic rhinitis. It is rather the lack of positive allergy tests that are needed to diagnose the condition.

The treatment of non-allergic rhinitis begins with avoiding any triggers that cause symptoms. If one cannot avoid the triggers, an over-the-counter or homemade saline solution may be helpful in alleviating symptoms. Corticosteroid nasal sprays may also be helpful in decreasing nasal congestion due to their anti-inflammatory actions. Anticholinergic and antihistamine nasal sprays are also helpful in diminishing nasal symptoms. Oral decongestants can be taken in order to decrease nasal congestion in individuals who do not have a contraindication to using them such as individuals with hypertension, pregnancy, etc.

Note: If left untreated treated, complications may arise in individuals with non-allergic rhinitis which may include nasal polyps, middle ear infections, sinus infections (i.e., sinusitis), lack of concentration, poor school performance, and/or decreased productivity at work.

The board certified allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy see both pediatric and adult patients and have over 5 decades of experience in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology. Black & Kletz Allergy has 3 convenient locations with on-site parking located in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA. The Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible and we offer a free shuttle that runs between the McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line. To schedule an appointment, please call any of our offices or you may click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day. We have been providing first-rate allergy and asthma care in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area for over 50 years and we look forward to continuing to provide you with the highest state-of-the-art allergy care in a friendly and relaxed environment