Hayfever- how to self treat it
Streaming nose, itchy watery eyes, irritated throat and a generally muzzy head- hay fever can be extremely uncomfortable. If it’s severe, it can be very hard to function- whether that’s working, socialising, or enjoying an afternoon in the sun.
Many people with mild hay fever can manage it themselves, with products from the pharmacy. But others struggle with symptoms and don’t really know what to do next. The good news is, there are often options people have not yet tried- and when they finally come to the doctor with their out-of-control hay fever, they’re surprised to hear about treatments they were previously unaware of.
Antihistamines- sometimes helpful, sometimes not
- There are lots of antihistamine tablets on the market- commonly used brands in Australia are Zyrtec, Claratyne, Telfast and Aerius or the generic versions of these.
- They’re all available over the counter, and need to be taken daily during peak pollen times to give full relief.
- Whilst they are less likely to cause drowsiness than older antihistamines, a lot of people will still feel sluggish on them, and sometimes they do not fully control the runny nose.
- If that’s the case, you might prefer nasal sprays and eye drops instead.
- If they help a bit, you can continue the antihistamine, and add in a nasal spray and eye drops for further relief.
Managing a runny nose in hay fever
- If you get hay fever badly for quite a few weeks during Spring or Summer, you’ll need a preventive treatment for your nasal symptoms- this means a steroid nasal spray. There are a few available over the counter (and for mild hay fever these are often fine), though a lot of people find the prescription-only ones are more effective- such as Avamys and Omnaris.
- To work properly a steroid nasal spray needs to be used as directed- i.e daily, for peak times of year, or in some cases all year round if you have ongoing hay fever/ allergic rhinitis.
- However, some people still find their nose is runny despite using steroid sprays, or else their hay fever has come on suddenly, and they need something to work faster. This is when you ALSO need a fast-acting antihistamine type spray. Azelastine spray has a topical antihistamine action and works quickly.
- A very popular option is Dymista- this has a 2 in 1 action- you get the fast-acting antihistamine action and the slower steady “preventive” steroid action too. It’s a little pricier because of its 2-in-1 nature.
- Take care not to use “decongestant sprays” on a regular basis- there are many of these available over the counter but they can cause a lot of problems if used for more than a few days.
How to manage itchy eyes in hay fever
- Several brands of eye drops can be used to treat itchy eyes in hay fever.
- It’s worth trying them out, and seeing which one helps you most.
- The down-side is they usually require 2 or more doses per day.
- The advantage is that they can work quickly and are unlikely to cause any side effects.
- Options include Opticrom (Sodium Cromoglicate), Zaditen (Ketotifen) and Patanol (Olopatadine).
Antihistamines and nasal sprays often help a little with eye symptoms too.
My hay fever is still out of control! What else can I do?
- If you’ve done the eye drops, nasal sprays and antihistamines and are still struggling, a lot of people are unaware of another tablet that can work very well for hay fever. Montelukast (Singulair) is better known as an “asthma preventer” medication- but it’s also effective for hay fever in many people.
- Montelukast is not an antihistamine, but works in a similar manner- blocking the release of inflammatory substances that form during an allergy.
- It’s taken once a day and for most people causes no side effects, though headache and mood changes can occur. You’ll need a prescription for it, so speak to your GP.
- You can get online prescriptions for steroid nasal sprays, eye drops and Montelukast from Qoctor- just click here.
- Finally, if you have severe hay fever and get no relief from the above options, you can ask your GP for a referral to an allergy specialist for testing and consideration of immunotherapy ( a long term course of injections that aims to desensitise you to pollen or other triggers over a number of years).
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