At issue: the merits of hay fever options

It’s spring, but help is at hand for Australians seeking hay fever medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroids, according to NPS MedicineWise.

This year, to help people with seasonal allergies navigate what has been described as a medicine jungle, the organisation is providing information and advice on hay fever (allergic rhinitis) treatments.

GP and medical adviser at NPS MedicineWise, Dr Jill Thistlethwaite, says the best treatment depends on the type and severity of symptoms, and as some medicines shouldn’t be used by young children or by breastfeeding mothers, it’s important to know who the medicine is for.

“Antihistamine tablets help with rapid relief within a few hours of hay fever symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose,” she said. “However, they don’t relieve a blocked or stuffy nose. Sometimes, to relieve more severe eye problems, antihistamine eye drops are necessary.

“A corticosteroid nasal spray is particularly useful for more severe hay fever symptoms, including a blocked nose. It takes longer to work and is best used regularly for long-term benefits.

“Decongestant nasal sprays can bring rapid relief of a blocked nose if antihistamines and corticosteroids don’t work. However, you shouldn’t use them for more than three days at a time as they can give you a blocked nose with longer use, rather than relieving one. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before using them with children.”

As most of these medicines are available over the counter, NPS MedicineWise is advising patients to ask their pharmacist or GP what they recommend.

“If you’re not sure, ask,” Dr Thistlethwaite said.

NPS MedicineWise has published additional information about managing hay fever, including what medicines are best during breastfeeding and how to minimise exposure to pollen and other allergy triggers.

It is available on the NPS MedicinWise website, here.

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