For hay fever sufferers, spring means sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose. Medicines can bring some relief to these symptoms, and some medicines can help prevent the symptoms if taken regularly.
Information on hay fever from national health not-for-profit NPS MedicineWise can help people with seasonal allergies choose the appropriate medicines for their symptoms.
“The best treatment depends on the type and severity of symptoms, and who the treatment is for,” says Dr Jill Thistlethwaite, general practitioner and medical adviser at NPS MedicineWise.
“Antihistamine tablets can work within a few hours to help relieve common hay fever symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. However, they do not relieve a blocked or stuffy nose. For more severe eye problems such as eyelid swelling and watering, people may find antihistamine eye drops are necessary,” she says.
“To help prevent hay fever symptoms before they become troublesome, a corticosteroid nasal spray may be recommended. Although it can bring some relief within 3-7 hours, it may take several days to weeks for it to have an effect on longstanding symptoms. The real benefit comes when used regularly over days and weeks and it is particularly useful for more severe hay fever symptoms.
“Decongestant nasal sprays can bring rapid relief of a blocked nose if antihistamines and corticosteroids don’t work. You shouldn’t use them for more than about 3 days at a time as they can give you a blocked nose with longer use rather than relieving one. You should also check with your doctor or pharmacist before using them with children.
“Most of these medicines are available over the counter. It is important to remember some medicines may not be appropriate for young children or breastfeeding parents. Your pharmacist or GP can recommend what would be best for you. If you are not sure, ask for advice,” says Dr Thistlethwaite.
The NPS MedicineWise website also provides other information about managing hay fever, including how to minimise exposure to pollen and other allergy triggers.
“Stay indoors if possible when the pollen count forecast is high, and on windy days or after thunderstorms,” says Dr Thistlethwaite.
“Wearing sunglasses and frequently splashing your eyes with water or using lubricating eye drops can also help,” she says.
To learn more go to the NPS MedicineWise website.
For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEDT (excluding public holidays).