Getting a Handle on Hay Fever

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, treatment guidelines updated to include antihistamines and immunotherapy

(RxWiki News) The sneezing and watery eyes that come with hay fever affect millions each year. These patients and their doctors may now see a clearer path to easing symptoms.

This week, a panel of experts released new guidelines for treatment of allergic rhinitis, sometimes called hay fever. These guidelines included use of prescription medications and avoiding allergens.

“Allergic rhinitis occurs when you inhale something that you’re allergic to, like pet dander or pollen, and then the inside lining of your nose becomes inflamed, resulting in congestion, runny nose, sneezing or itching,” explained one of the experts behind the new guidelines, Sandra Y. Lin, MD, in a news release.

In an interview with dailyRx News, John Oppenheimer, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, stressed the large effect that allergic rhinitis has.

"One cannot underscore the importance of such a guideline," Dr. Oppenheimer said. "Approximately 1 in 6 Americans suffers from this illness with consequences that are both significant with regard to cost as well as impact on quality of life and productivity."

In these new recommendations, the authors suggested use of topical steroids, oral antihistamines and immunotherapy for treatment of hay fever.

Oral antihistamines are taken by mouth and can help reduce allergy symptoms. Topical steroids for allergic rhinitis are nasal sprays that aim to reduce symptoms.

According to MedlinePlus, immunotherapy (often delivered through allergy shots) involves exposing the patient to an increasingly large amount of an allergen. This can help the patient adjust to the allergen and reduce symptoms over time.

In terms of what patients can do themselves, the guidelines noted that avoiding allergens can help. One way to avoid allergens is through steps to control the environment. This can include avoiding pets, using filters to clean the air and using products that kill dust mites.

MedlinePlus also offered other steps to patients. Removing carpets from the home, using a dehumidifier and avoiding outdoor tasks that aggravate symptoms can help.

Patients should discuss treatment options with their doctors. Methods may vary from patient to patient, but these new guidelines may create a clearer path.

"By clinicians following its recommendations, allergic rhinitis patients are sure to prosper," Dr. Oppenheimer said.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation issued and funded these guidelines. Some of the guideline authors had ties to companies like Merck and GlaxoSmithKline.

The guidelines were published Feb. 2 in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Review Date: 
January 30, 2015