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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the best over the counter treatment for hay fever?

    I have terrible hayfever.. what is the best over the counter treatment?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 11


    Dr Richard Beatty

    GP (General Practitioner)

    Brisbane GP With Special interest in Complex Medical, Men's health, antenatal, paediatrics. Skin Cancer Clinic Designated Aviation Medical Examiner Specific interests in Vasectomy, Dermatology & … View Profile

    The nasal symptoms are best treated with a nasal steroid spray. A recent review in an American medical journal states that “there is no evidence that one intranasal corticosteroid is superior to another.” However, the cost can vary considerably, some are not licensed in young children, they look and feel different, have different applicators, and some are twice daily rather than once per day.

    The dose of the once daily nasal sprays is 1-2 puffs each nostril oncer per day - so that's up to 4 sprays a day; some bottles have 120 doses and some 60. I recommend a once daily generic formulation - have a word with a pharmacist. Fluticasone and budesonide nasal sprays are examples. Just remember, though, that you can buy the 120-dose bottles for a lot less than two of the 60-dose bottle.

    Using the sprays correctly is important; so follow the simple instructions in the pack. Don't “sniff it” or it will just end up in the back of the throat. Also, pointing the nozzle away from the middle of the nose (septum) will reduce the risk of nose bleeds. The longer the steroid sprays are used the better they work, and preferably start them a week or two before your hayfever season, and should be used every day.

    For persistent nasal symptoms, or additional eye symptoms, you can add an oral non-sedating antihistamine. It's important to check they don't make you drowsy, though, because even the “non sedating” antihistamines can still cause drowsiness in a few people (especially important if driving).

    The common “non-sedating” antihistamine are loratadine, desloratadine, levocetirizine and fexofenadine. Interestingly, cetirizine has been identified as more likely to cause drowsiness although it is traditionally put in this “non sedating” group. The difference in cost can be considerable so have a chat with a pharmacist or check prices from an online Australian pharmacist first to get an idea.

    Eye symptoms also respond to the antihistamine tablets, or can be treated with anti-allergy eye drops such as sodium cromoglycate (is cheap and effective but needs to be used for a few days to work properly) or an antihistamine eye drop (eg eyezep) that's more expensive but works quicker.

    So, it all depends on your symptoms (eye and/or nose). Typically, start with a nasal once daily steroid, add in eye drops if you need them; and you can use one of the non-sedating antihistamines as well as all 3 if you need this - these tablets don't work for nasal congestion. Most people use antihistamines “breakthrough” symptoms (as-required basis) because they work within 30 minutes.

    There are other treatments some people try (nasal cromoglycate spray, nasal decongestants for strictly very short term use, nasal irrigation some people say is very effective) but the above is the mainstay. A nasal antihistasmine is also available over the counter (eg. azep) but it does need using four times a day and is more likely to cause nasal side effects than the nasal steroids; it's well worth considering adding with the nasal steroid, though, if you get breakthrough symptoms and don't want to use an oral antihistasmine.

    The word “Hayfever” suggests it is trivial but those people who suffer hayfever will know its not. Indeed, hayfever has been shown to impair performance and cause fatigue. You really can't function normally with poorly controlled hayfever, so do use your treatments properly and regularly, and see a doctor if it's still not controlled.

  • 6


    Lucinda Curran


    Lucinda Curran of Eco Health Solutions offers a truly holistic approach to health by combining Building Biology and Chinese Medicine. Her work is solutions-focussed and … View Profile


    From a different perspective, I have the following suggestions.

    Firstly, if your hayfever is to pollens, I would strongly recommend that you get some locally produced untreated honey (source this from farmers markets or find beekeepers in your area). Then, take a teaspoon a day of it. I prefer clients to take this starting the season before they have troubles. But later can also help.

    Also, there are Chinese herbal pills designed especially for this. After consultation, your TCM practitioner may then sell you these over the counter as needed.

    I hope this helps.

  • 9


    A/Prof Kymble Spriggs

    Allergy Specialist & Immunologist

    Dr Kymble Spriggs is a Specialist Allergist & Immunologist, and Consultant Physician. He has an extensive experience of allergy, allergy symptoms & allergic diseases. In … View Profile

    The best over-the-counter hay fever treatment is the one that completely relieves your symptoms! ;-)  This may sound like a funny statement - but there is not one “best” over-the-counter treatment. 

    The effectiveness of a hayfever treatment depends on a number of different things unique to that person:

    For example:
    1. How severe your symptoms are. 
    2. Your type of allergic trigger and how you are exposed to it.
    3. Personal factors affecting how a medication may work in your body, and other medical conditions.
    4. Your preference for a type of medication (eg spray/tablet) and ability to stick to the recommended treatment program.

    If you have mild hay fever (with short and predictable exposure to the trigger) any of the over-the-counter medications (that you are happy to take according to the instructions) will probably provide adequate relief.

    If you have more severe and persistent hay fever, the amounts of over-the-counter medication required will increase, and probably won’t provide complete relief.  Not to mention becoming complicated and expensive!  

    For severe hayfever - the best treatment available is a prescription course of immunotherapy from a specialist allergist.  This can effectively cure hay fever in some people, and mean they don’t require any other medications for many years - even after completing the immunotherapy course.

    A specialist allergist has extensive experience in the treatment of hay fever.  They can review your particular situation, and advise on a course of treatment, including if immunotherapy is appropriate.

    For further information see the articles below:
    Hay Fever Symptoms
    Allergy Immunotherapy

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