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Month: March 2024

Acute Sinusitis Update

Acute sinusitis is another way of saying an acute sinus infection. Acute, in this context, refers to a sinus infection that is less than 4 weeks old. Chronic, on the other hand, refers to a sinus infection that has persisted for more than 12 weeks. There is also a category called subacute. Subacute refers to the vast majority of sinus infections are acute in nature. Most are viral in origin and thus do not need to be treated with antibiotics. The severity of a sinus infection may vary from mild to severe. Often an individual may experience mild cold-like symptoms. In some individuals however, severe symptoms may occur which may cause that person to feel very ill, prompting them to go to an urgent care center or an emergency room for treatment.

There are 4 types of sinuses located in one’s facial bones (i.e., skull). These sinuses serve to lighten the weight of one’s skull, help with voice resonance, and to filter and moisten inhaled air when breathing through one’s nose. The names of the sinuses are as follows:

  1. Frontal sinuses: These sinuses are located in the center of the forehead region.
  2. Ethmoid sinuses: These sinuses are located just above the upper nose between the eyes. They are actually comprised of between 6-12 small air cells as opposed to large sacs like the other sinuses.
  3. Sphenoid sinuses: These sinuses are located behind the eyes but in the deeper recesses of the skull.
  4. Maxillary sinus: These sinuses are located behind the cheekbones. They are the largest sinuses.

The sinuses are vulnerable to becoming infected due to their physical nature, particularly the maxillary sinuses. When someone develops a “cold” or has nasal congestion for other reasons such as allergies (i.e., hay fever or allergic rhinitis), the small holes that drain the sinuses become clogged and/or narrowed. This obstruction of the draining system may cause a “backup” in the draining process. As a result, the fluid that has built up in the sinuses stays in the sinus since it is unable to drain properly. The fluid in the sinuses is more likely to get infected given the stagnant nature of the fluid. Fluid that just “sits” in the sinuses is very susceptible a secondary infection, particularly with a bacteria.

The pathogenesis of an acute sinus infection is more understandable if one compares the sinuses to a pond and river. We all know that algae grow in ponds because the water is stagnant. We also know that algae do not usually grow in a river due to the constant motion of a river. Regarding sinus infections, this analogy can be evident as follows: When there is no obstruction to the drainage of a sinus, the sinus acts like a river which makes it is less likely for bacteria to grow. On the other hand, when there is an obstruction to the drainage of a sinus (i.e., nasal congestion, tumors, nasal polyps), the sinus acts like a pond which makes it more likely for bacteria to grow and thus cause a sinus infection.

The symptoms one may experience when having an acute sinus infection may include any one or more of the following: The symptoms of acute sinusitis typically involve one or more of the following: nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, sinus pressure, sinus headaches, discolored nasal discharge, sore throat, clogged ears (i.e., Eustachian dysfunction), fatigue, bad breath, pain in the teeth and/or ears, cough, fever.

The diagnosis of acute sinusitis usually is made by taking a comprehensive history with an additional physical examination. Most of the time other diagnostic tests are not needed, however other methods are occasionally used in order to diagnose acute sinus infections. Such approaches may include X-rays (i.e., CT scan, MRI), direct visualization (i.e., rhinolaryngoscopy), bacterial and fungal cultures, and allergy testing.

The management of acute sinus infections ironically usually requires no treatment at all because most acute sinus infections are viral in nature. Most of the time these viral sinus infections resolve on their own. Hydration by drinking plenty of water is usually recommended. Antibiotics however may be necessary in some individuals who have a bacterial infection whether primary or secondary. Saline irrigation, decongestants, nasal corticosteroids (e.g., Flonase, Nasacort AQ, Rhinocort Aqua), and/or over-the-counter analgesics (e.g., Tylenol, Advil, Aleve) are often also used in order to help alleviate the symptoms of an acute sinus infection. In addition to treating acute sinus infections, it is also important to try to prevent them. Individuals with allergic rhinitis (i.e., hay fever) are generally more prone to sinus infections since they often have nasal congestion, which predisposes them to sinus infections. It is prudent to evaluate someone for allergies if they are prone to sinus infections. Allergy skin testing can be done either by skin testing or blood testing. There are many types of allergy medications (i.e., antihistamines, decongestants, leukotrienes, nasal medications, eye drops) that are utilized in both the prevention and treatment of acute sinusitis. Allergy shots (i.e., allergy injections, allergy immunotherapy, allergy desensitization, allergy hyposensitization) may also be recommended in selected individuals as they are very effective in reducing or preventing allergy symptoms (i.e., nasal congestion, sinus congestion) in 80-85% of individuals on allergy shots.

The board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy have expertise in diagnosing and treating acute, subacute and chronic sinusitis as well as other allergic and immunological conditions. Our allergy specialists treat both adult and pediatric patients and have been doing so in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area for more than 50 years. Black & Kletz Allergy has offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA. All 3 of our offices have on-site parking. For further convenience, our Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible. Our McLean office location offers a complementary shuttle that runs between our office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line. For an appointment, please call our office directly or alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day. If you suffer any sinus-related symptoms, we are here to help alleviate or hopefully end these undesirable symptoms that have been so bothersome, so that you can enjoy a better quality of life. Black & Kletz Allergy is dedicated to providing the highest quality allergy care in a welcoming and professional setting.

New Treatment for Food Allergies

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is an antibody that mediates allergic reactions. It interacts with the proteins (i.e., antigens, allergens) during an allergic reaction causing various chemicals and substances to be released into the bloodstream. It is those chemicals and mediators such as histamine, leukotrienes, prostaglandins, etc. that are responsible for the clinical manifestations of allergic reactions. The allergic reactions range in severity from mild itching to life-threatening anaphylactic emergencies. The offending antigens can be present in a host of different settings ranging from environmental allergens such as dust mites, animal dander, pollen, etc., to food allergies, to insect venoms allergies as well as to other allergic situations.

Xolair (i.e., omalizumab) is an antibody that blocks the actions of the IgE antibody. Xolair is classified as a “biologic” medication. It has an anti-IgE quality where it blocks the action of IgE antibodies, thus reducing the risks of allergic reactions. We have been successfully using Xolair to control allergic asthma for more than 20 years. It has also proved to be very successful in controlling chronic unexplained hives (i.e., chronic urticaria) inadequately responsive to various antihistamines in high doses. It was also approved in 2020 to treat chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps.

Millions of Americans have food allergies. Approximately 40% of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Until recently, the management of a food allergy only included the complete avoidance of the offending food, as well as to always carry an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g., EpiPen, Auvi-Q, Adrenaclick) for emergency use in case of a severe allergic reaction triggered by an accidental exposure to the offending food. A form of inducing tolerance to the allergic food (i.e., oral immunotherapy) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) only for peanut in children between 4 and 17 years of age.

The results of a landmark clinical trial called OUtMATCH (i.e., Omalizumab as monotherapy and as adjunct therapy to multi-allergen OIT in food allergic children and adults) were presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology on February 25, 2024 in Washington, DC. The study was also simultaneously published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The first stage of the phase 3 OUtMATCH trial was designed to see if taking omalizumab increased the threshold for the amount of food that caused allergic reactions, thereby reducing the likelihood of reactions that might occur as a result of accidental exposures. The study team enrolled 177 children and adolescents ages 1 to 17 years and three adults ages 18 to 55 years, all with confirmed allergy to peanut and at least two other common foods among milk, egg, cashew, wheat, hazelnut or walnut.

The study participants who reacted to small amounts of these food allergens during oral food challenges were assigned at random to receive injections of either omalizumab or placebo. After 16 to 20 weeks of treatment, the participants were challenged again in a carefully controlled setting to see if they could tolerate a greater amount of food than they did at the outset.

The study results revealed that a 16-20-week course of the monoclonal antibody omalizumab increased the amount of peanut, tree nuts (cashew, hazelnut and walnut), egg, milk and wheat that multi-food allergic children as young as one-year could consume without a moderate or severe allergic reaction.

Nearly 67% of the participants who completed the treatment could consume a single dose of 600 milligrams (mg) or more of peanut protein, compared to less than 7% of participants who received placebo with 600 mg representing approximately 2.5 peanuts. This was at least 6 times the amount of peanut protein that participants could tolerate at the start of the trial. Treatment with omalizumab also yielded similar outcomes for egg, milk, wheat, cashew, walnut, and hazelnut at a threshold dose of 1,000 mg protein or more.

Based on these results, the FDA recently approved Xolair as a treatment for the reduction of Type I allergic reactions which are IgE-mediated, which includes anaphylaxis, that may occur with accidental exposure to one or more foods in adult and pediatric patients age 1 year and older with IgE-mediated food allergy. Xolair is to be used in conjunction with food allergen avoidance. Xolair is not however indicated for the emergency treatment of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis.

In reality, the total avoidance of allergic foods is not always successful and many children and their families live in constant fear of a life-threatening reaction caused by an inadvertent exposure to the food(s) they are sensitized to. The condition may cause considerable psychosocial problems and may also negatively impact the nutrition of the patient.

This new treatment is not a license to eat the foods that one is allergic to, but it can be reassuring to families because the treatment substantially reduces the risks of severe reactions after accidental food exposures.

The board certified allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy have 3 convenient office locations in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area and are very experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of food allergies. Black & Kletz Allergy treat both adults and children and have offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA. We offer on-site parking at each location and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible. There is a free shuttle that runs between the McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line. Please call our office to make an appointment or alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day. Black & Kletz Allergy has been serving the Washington, DC metropolitan area for more than 5 decades and we pride ourselves in providing outstanding allergy and asthma care in a professional and pleasing environment.