Richard Herrscher, M.D., FACAAI

The practice of allergy and immunology has many facets, but at its heart is an immune system gone awry. The end result is that you can become quite ill. My primary focus is Immunology and diagnosing the problems of disordered immunity that result from allergies or immunodeficiency and restoring patients back to health. I also have a strong interest in monoclonal antibody therapies like Xolair (monoclonal anti-IgE) used to treat asthma. When I was in medical school, the promise of dramatic treatments using engineered monoclonal antibodies was only a theory. Today this theory has come to fruition and our office infusion center offers patients many of these cutting edge therapies such as Xolair, Remicade and Tysabri.

I became interested in Allergy and Immunology after I went to college and started having recurrent sinus and ear infections. I developed a mold allergy and my college dorm room was growing mold on the walls and in my shoes. The campus doctor couldn't figure out why I was in his clinic every two weeks with a sinus or ear infection. He kept telling me this was not normal and that I should see a specialist. During my sophomore year I was flying home for Christmas and I passed out cold in the aisle of the airplane at 20,000 feet. I remember a doctor, that was a passenger on the plane, taking my pulse as I was regaining consciousness and telling the stewardess that I was going to be O.K.. I was diagnosed with pneumonia and was sick in bed the entire holiday. My parents pulled me out of school, brought me back home and sent me to an allergist. After being pricked and prodded I was diagnosed with mold allergies and started on allergy shots. My recurrent infections soon stopped and I regained my health. It was this experience that solidified my interest in allergy and the immune system. I wanted to know what had happened to me and why someone could get so sick to the point of having their life disrupted by a simple allergy to something like mold. I wanted to be involved in care and treatment of others with problems just like I had; because I had seen firsthand what a dramatic difference it could make.

An "old wives tale" remedy that works

I think saline sinus sprays are of tremendous benefit in treating symptoms and improving local immunity in the nasal passages. Hypertonic or concentrated salt sprays work best because they draw fluid across the mucous membranes, improving muco-ciliary flow and clearance of bacteria, viruses and allergens. I recently became interested in Dead Sea salt solutions after a trip to Israel and swimming in the Dead Sea. The salt was so strong that my body stung all over, but after getting out I never felt better in my whole life. Regular table salt or sea salt is comprised of sodium chloride, while Dead Sea salt is a combination of different salts with up to 50% magnesium chloride. There are several studies in the medical literature showing superior anti-inflammatory benefits of magnesium chloride compared to sodium chloride. One study showed reduction in allergy symptoms using a Dead Sea salt spray that was comparable to prescription steroid nasal sprays. So using a hypertonic Dead Sea salt spray gives the functional benefits of a standard salt spray with the added anti-inflammatory benefits of magnesium chloride.