The most common allergy is seasonal allergic rhinitis, current thinking predicts that an increased level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere will lead to a noteworthy increase in the amount of airborne grass pollen. This in turn will increase airborne concentrations, exposure and suffering in grass pollen allergic individuals.
The National Pollen and Aerobiology Unit at the University of Worcester say “78% of people with hay fever feel their symptoms have a negative impact on their quality of life”. The website NHS choices urges sufferers to visit their pharmacy rather than the GP
They are available as tablets or nasal sprays and work by blocking the action of histamine, histamine is released by the body from mast cells in response to an allergen in this case pollen. In blocking the effect of histamine the symptoms relieved include itching, sneezing and watery eyes, they are less effective than corticosteroids in relieving nasal congestion and can be used as a preventative treatment when pollen counts are high.
Formulated as nasal sprays these work by exerting an anti inflammatory effect on the nasal passages thus relieving nasal congestion. As they have a localised rather than systemic(throughout the body) effect they can be considered in pregnant or breast feeding mothers where antihistamines are contraindicated, however over the counter they are only licensed for over 18’s. Side effects can include nose dryness, nasal irritation or a nose bleed.
Many over the counter are available with these properties, either as a single product (to treat nasal congestion) or in combination with an antihistamine to dry up secretions (i.e. a runny nose). The disadvantage to these products is that they must only be used in the short term (i.e. less than 7 days) as prolonged use can cause “rebound congestion” which serves to worsen the original symptoms.
The effects of histamine on the eye can cause redness, itching and allergic conjunctivitis antihistamine eye drops will relieve eye inflammation and therefore treat these symptoms. A different type of allergy eye drops contains sodium cromoglicate (a mast cell inhibitor) these work by preventing the release of histamine and therefore treating allergic conjunctivitis. Both these drops can cause a short term stinging or irritation to the eye.
If after trying these treatments relief is not obtained then a trip to the GP is warranted, who can try a treatment of corticosteroid tablets which provide rapid short term relief. Long term treatment with corticosteroid tablets is not recommended as they can cause side effects which include weight gain, acne and mood changes.