Vantage Chemist Hayfever advice
Hayfever (allergic rhinitis) is an allergic response triggered by a sensitivity to plant pollens or fungal spores.
The most common form of allergy in the UK. It affects up to 20% of the population, almost 9 million people.
Only one in 20 hayfever sufferers escape allergic eye problems altogether, usually those allergic to the pollen of oil-seed rape.
In the UK. The main hayfever starts at the beginning of June and continues to mid-July or occasionally early August. Hayfever symptoms vary from month to month depending on which pollens people are allergic to: Feb to May - hazel, elder and birch pollen; April to May- plane tree pollen; June to August -grass pollens; August to October mould and fungal spores in damp weather.
Hayfever ususally appears when there are higher pollen levels, such as in the morning or evening, or in hot and humid weather.
Click: Hayfever sufferers can check the days pollen risk and the following day's forecast
This pollen index is supplied by the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit. The pollen forecasts are made using information from the National Pollen Network, local vegetation, weather patterns in the winter and spring that influence grass growth, and the weather forecasts. The pollen forecasts can help hay fever sufferers to plan their activities and medication.
If you or family members suffer from allergies, asthma or eczema you may be more prone to hayfever. Adolescents are more likely to have hayfever but it tends to improve with age.
Symptoms can be like those of a cold and include an itchy nose, roof of the mouth or eyes; sneezing; a blocked or runny nose; a sore or tickly throat; and red, watery eyes.
Vantage pharmacists may be able to give you advise if you are not sure whether your symptoms are due to an allergy or a cold.
Patients with hayfever symptoms should see a medical professional if:
There are two main types of medicines to treat hayfever:
- There is shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, as this could be due to asthma
- If the patient has swollen glands, a fever or a persistent headache - these symptoms may indicate an infection
- There is a yellow discharge from the eyes or nose, or the person has a bloody nose
- Only one side of the nose or only one eye is affected
- The ears or sinuses (areas around the cheekbones) are painful
- The patient is pregnant or breastfeeding, in which case some hayfever medicines may not be suitable
- The person has other medical conditions, such as asthma, or takes other medicines
- The patient is allergic to any medicines
- Hayfever medicines do not seem to be working after five days
- Medicines that treat or prevent an allergic reaction, such as corticosteroid nasal sprays and antihistamines
- Medicines, such as decongestants, that relieve the symptoms rather than treat the allergic reaction
There are some products that contain both an antihistamine and a decongestant.It is better to treat or prevent the allergic reaction, and the treatment choice depends on the main symptoms, when they happen and how severe they are. Some medicines need to be taken before you have symptoms and be used regularly to be effective.
Nasal corticosteroid sprays
Nasal decongestant sprays
- Nasal corticosteroid sprays contain beclometasone, fluticasone or triamcinolone, and work by suppressing the body's response to allergens or triggers
- Treatment should be started early and taken regularly, especially if the person expects to be exposed to their hayfever triggers. If there are eye and nasal symptoms, using treatments to control nasal symptoms often also improves eye symptoms
- Patients may also need to use a nasal decongestant or an antihistamine during the early stages of corticosteroid spray treatment
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays are particularly effective for more severe or persistent hayfever, and are considered safe - but some minor side effects include irritation, unpleasant taste, headache, coughing and nasal dryness. However, they are only available without prescription for adults
- Decongestant sprays containing oxymetazoline, xylometazoline or phenylephrine unblock the nose and make breathing easier. The treatments should only be used for up to five days, for otherwise their effect is lost and a blocked nose from rebound congestion is likely
- Nasal drops, rather than sprays, are recommended for young children
(tablets and syrups)
There are two types of antihistamines:
- When you have an allergic reaction your body releases histamine, which in turn leads to hayfever symptoms - but antihistamines can be used to block this reaction.
- Newer non-sedating antihistamines, which do not typically cause drowsiness
- Older sedating antihistamines that cause drowsiness
Antihistamines are good for treating hayfever symptoms as they occur, especially if there are several different symptoms present . They can also be taken in advance if exposure to allergens or triggers is expected.
Newer non-sedating antihistamines contain acrivastine, cetirizine or loratadine.
Cetirizine and loratadine are available as syrups for children, and it is important to check the correct doses for different age groups.
Newer antihistamines may rarely cause drowsiness; patients who are affected in this wasy should not drive or operate machinery.
The older sedating antihistamine treatments contain chlorphenamine, clemastine, diphenhydramine or promethazine. These medicines can cause drowsiness that can sometimes extend even into the next day, and it is important that the patient does not drive or operate machinery. Patients should also avoid drinking alcohol if they are taking medicines that make them drowsy,
Sedating antihistamines are not suitable for everyone, and patients should check with their pharmacist before taking them. Patients should also check with their pharmacist if they have other medical conditions including glaucoma, epilepsy or prostate problems, or if they take antidepressants.
Children under six years with symptoms requiring antihistamine treatment should seek medical advice.
Anti-allergy nasal sprays and eye drops
- Anti-allergy drops and sprays containing lodoxamide, sodium cromoglicate, or xylometazoline and antazoline can relieve symptoms such as itching, sneezing and watery eyes.
- Some eye drops such as Otrivine-Antistine combine a antihistamine with a decongestant , which reduces redness. These treatments should be used in the short term only.
- It may be necessary to remove contact lenses before using these treatments - check instructions - and throw the package away one month after opening. It may help to mark the opening date on the bottle.
- Some eye drops cause temporary stinging.