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Hay fever – how can I ease my nasal symptoms?

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 26.01.2023 | 3 min read

Constant sneezes and a streaming nose can be common in the pollen season. If you suffer from hay fever, or allergic rhinitis in medical terms, you will feel desperate to rid yourself of the tissues and feeling of congestion. Our pharmacist has put together some solutions to ease your nasal symptoms with hay fever.

Will antihistamines help?

Taking an oral antihistamine is a good starting point for most people since the tablets can help dry up excess nasal secretions and help if you get lots of symptoms at once. It’s worth starting these two weeks before you anticipate the season, to prevent symptoms from coming or reduce their severity. You’ll need to know which tree or grass pollen you’re allergic to, as they come out at different times of the year – a symptom diary can help.

Which is good for a runny or blocked nose?

Targeting a particular symptom can be useful to add on to antihistamines if the pollen count is going to be high or you need to perform at your best. If symptoms are occasional or mild, one of these treatments may be enough without antihistamine tablets. Nasal lavage or saline nasal sprays reduce nasal congestion and flush away allergens in the nose. Some people love the cleansing action of nasal lavage, for others, the thought of it is simply not for them. They’re a good option if you’re looking for a drug-free remedy or if you’re pregnant.

A steroid nasal spray dampens down inflammation in the nose, suppressing histamine release and reducing the sensitivity to pollen or allergens. It's a good long-term option to help relieve congestion, sneezing, itching, and a runny nose, and you can start it a few weeks before you expect your hay fever to start. Allow five to seven days of daily application for it to get to work. You might need other measures alongside such as antihistamine tablets or nasal decongestants if you’re looking for immediate relief, and you need to continue it throughout the allergy season.

Decongestants provide short-term relief from a blocked nose, which might be helpful if you have an important meeting or Zoom call and need relief within minutes, but they shouldn’t be used long term. They don’t dampen down the immune overdrive that hay fever brings, but instead, they temporarily shrink blood vessels in the nasal passages that cause a stuffy nose. Nasal decongestant sprays could not be used continuously for more than 7 days, since continual use can cause a side effect of rebound congestion once you stop. They are available as a spray or tablet.

I get a constant tickly feeling in my throat

Nasal secretions can trickle down the back of the nose and throat, causing irritation and possibly a cough. This is known as a postnasal drip and is usually worse at night. It’s best to address the congestion, but short-term relief can be found from cough medicine to tackle a tickly cough.

Are there any natural remedies?

Topical nasal barriers: These are drug-free nasal barriers that can be used to trap pollen around the nostril, minimising or preventing pollens from going up the nose and provoking an immune response. You could apply Vaseline around the nostrils or Haymax hay fever balm.

Drug-free nasal barrier sprays: These are inert powders or barriers that can be sprayed up the nose, to prevent or minimise pollens from triggering hay fever symptoms and preventing the release of histamine. Becodefencenasal spray is one example.

Red light therapy devices: This is another drug-free option, with the red light therapy thought to suppress the mast cells that release histamine, thereby reducing hay fever symptoms such as watery eyes and a runny nose.

Other remedies from herbal, homeopathic, or traditional Chinese medicine include A. Vogel Pollinosan Hay Fever Tablets. This is a homeopathic medicinal product to treat symptoms associated with grass or tree pollen allergies, plus dust and pet allergies. A. Vogel Stinging Nettle Urtica Drops 50ml. The natural antihistamine action in Urtica can help treat allergies such as hay fever and prickly heat.

Acupressure bands such as the Qu-Chi band are designed to apply pressure to the large intestine 11 (LI-11) acupoint on the elbow. Acupuncturists believe stimulation of this acupoint pulls energy away from the head, nose, face, and throat.

  • Written by Adil Naeem, Head of Caidr Platform and a practising pharmacist

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