Allergies, such as hayfever, are very common, affecting about 1 in 3 New Zealanders at some time in their lives.
Hayfever occurs when a person’s immune system over-reacts to substances called allergens in the environment. Common hayfever inducing allergens include house dust mites, grasses and pollen. Symptoms vary according to the part of the body affected, but can include sneezing, watery eyes, itch, rash, and raised weals on the skin.
The most important part of managing hayfever is to avoid the allergens that aggravate your body. It is difficult to avoid pollen, however you can avoid going outside when pollen counts are high. The amount of pollen in the air is highest:
- In the morning
- On windy days
- After a thunderstorm
However, it can be impractical to avoid going outside so we must look towards over the counter medications.
Common medications used for hayfever
Non-sedating antihistamine tablets or liquid are useful in alleviating some of the symptoms of hayfever. They are helpful in controlling sneezing, itching and a runny nose, but are ineffective in relieving nasal blockage. They can be used alone or in combination with other medications, such as nasal sprays.
Corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory) nasal sprays reduce the inflammation in the lining of the nose. They work best when used in a preventative manner, just like preventers for asthma. For example, they may be used for weeks or months at a time during an allergy season.
Decongestant nasal sprays can be used to unblock the nose, but should not be used for more than a few days at a time. Prolonged use may result in worsening of the nasal congestion.
Eye drops: The eye problems that sometimes occur with hayfever may not always respond to the above medications. Eye drops containing decongestants alone or in combination with antihistamine are available for mild to moderate eye problems.