How Is Hay Fever Treated?

What Is The Treatment For Hayfever?
Way too many people allow the symptoms of hayfever to spoil their summer because they are anxious about taking hay fever drugs, or feel it's more 'natural' to suffer. Yet, when it comes to hay fever there really is very little cause for concern. The risks associated with hay fever medications are absolutely minimal, and it is such a waste to miss out on the best time of year.

Antihistamines

Most people respond very well to treatment with antihistamines. If they make you sleepy, persist for a while, because this side effect often wears off - or ask for one of the non-sedating forms. The sleepiness is annoying, but it is only a minor side effect, and not an indication of the drug causing any serious harm. How do antihistamines  work? When you suffer an allergic reaction, a chemical is released into your body called histamine. This chemical attaches itself to receptors in the body and triggers an allergic reaction. Antihistamines work by binding to the same receptors (but do not trigger a reaction) - and because the receptor is binded with antihistamine, there's no room left for histamines to bind. The trick is, to take antihistamines soon enough - before the histamines have a chance to bind. This is why it's important to take the antihistamines well before the allergen is encountered. Taking antihistamines at the first sign of an itch or sneeze can also work, but the effects will not be nearly as good as taking them in anticipation of exposure.

 

Common brands of non-sedating antihistamines: Zyrtec, Allegra, Alavert, Claritin, Semprex, Mizollen, Mistamine and Telfast. Most are available over the counter without prescription. Most antihistamines perform badly if you take them once the allergic reaction has set in, but acrivastine (Semprex-D capsules) can be good in this circumstance and is non-sedating. It is available over the counter.

Cromoglycate Drops

Cromoglycate drops (for the eyes or nose) do not work for everyone, but if they work for you, go for them. These are absolutely the safest of the anti-allergy drugs. They treat the symptoms of red, watery or itchy eyes caused by hay fever.

Brand names include: Catacrom, Cromolux, Opticrom, Optrex Allergy, Galpharm Hayfever, Hay-Crom, Pollenase Allergy and Vividrin

Steroid Drops

Steroid drops and sprays for the nose are sometimes recommended. The dose of steroid involved is small, and very little gets into the bloodstream, so there is no risk of serious side effects. If you suffer stinging, burning or dryness, it might be due to preservatives in the drops, not the drug itself.

Steroid drops for the eyes should be used cautiously - they are usually only prescribed for severe inflammation of the eye during hay fever season. Don't use over-the-counter decongestant drops for more than three days. The eye is vulnerable to infections when using steroid drops, so this treatment ideally needs medical supervision.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a standard treatment for hay fever in many countries, but in Britain you will struggle to get it. Immunotherapy is all about re-training the immune system. It involves a series of small injections just under the skin. The liquid injected contains a small dose of the allergen you are allergic to. The idea is (a bit like the flu-shot), you gradually build up an immunity to the allergen. Some studies show patients report an 80-90 percent improvement in symptoms with this treatment.

Pollen Asthma

Some people with hay fever also have pollen asthma. Their asthma is worse in the pollen season but it usually persists all year round (either because there are other allergens or irritants involved, or just because the inflammation of the airways is self-perpetuating) whereas hay fever itself clears up. Treating the hay fever fully with antihistamines helps considerably with the asthma symptoms.

What is hayfever? A simple explanation.
How is hayfever diagnosed? Hay fever tests.
Are allergies becoming more common? True or false?

Pollen Counts
What is a high pollen count? Plus, a few myth busters.
How to avoid pollen at home. Stop pollen sneaking into your home.


• Got another question? See: Allergy Questions

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