Sinus & Allergy
Healthy sinuses are air-filled spaces in the facial bones that open to the nasal cavity. Sinus disease often results when the communication between the nose and sinuses are blocked as a result of infection, allergy, polyps, or structural abnormality. The key to treating acute or chronic sinusitis is to open blocked sinuses through the use of medication, allergy control, and when necessary, surgery.
Sinusitis—an infection of the sinuses—can be classified as acute, which means that it comes on suddenly, often right after an upper respiratory infection such as a cold or flu. Or sinusitis can be chronic, meaning that it is an ongoing problem. In either case, when the discomfort of sinusitis is severe or the symptoms persist, a comprehensive medical examination with appropriate treatment is recommended.
Hay fever, rose fever, grass fever, and “summertime colds” are various names for allergic rhinitis. Allergy is an exaggerated inflammatory response to a foreign substance which, in the case of a stuffy nose, is usually a pollen, mold, animal dander, or some element in house dust. Foods sometime play a role. Pollens cause problems in spring (trees) and summer (grasses) or fall (weeds) whereas house dust allergies and mold may be a year-around problem. Ideally the best treatment is avoidance of these substances, but that is impractical in most cases.
In the allergic patient, the release of histamine and similar substances results in congestion and excess production of watery nasal mucus. Antihistamine Help relieve the sneezing and runny nose of allergy. Many antihistamines are now available without a prescription. The most familiar brands include Chlor-Trimeton®, Benadryl®, Clarinex®, Claritin®, Allegra®, and Zyrtec® (although most are also available in generic forms). Decongestants, such as Sudafed® (also available in generic forms) shrink congested nasal tissues. Combinations of antihistamines with decongestants are also available; for example, Actifed®, Allegra D®, Chlortrimetron D®, Claritin D®. All these preparations have potential side effects, and patients must heed the warnings of the package or prescription insert. This is especially important if the patient suffers from high blood pressure, glaucoma, irregular heart beats, difficulty in urination, or is pregnant.
Allergy shots are the most specific treatment available, and they are highly successful in allergic patients. Skin tests or at times blood tests are used to make up treatment vials of substances to which the patient is allergic. The physician determines the best concentration for initiating the treatment. These treatments are given by injection. They work by forming blocking antibodies in the patient’s blood stream, which then interfere with the allergic reaction. Many patients prefer allergy shots over drugs because of the side effects of the drugs.
Patients with allergies have an increased tendency to develop sinus infections and require treatment as discussed in the previous section.