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Victoria asked...

Hay fever for years

I am writing in the hope that you might be able to advise me of any hay fever treatments that could help me combat the symptoms. I have had hay fever since I was 7, and now I am 32 with no signs of it getting any better! Antihistamines are no longer working that well, and now I am on my last resort - piriton and eye drops. However, I now just feel groggy and allergic instead. It is really getting me down, as I also suffer from Raynauds in colder periods (best guess - doctor's won't formally diagnose it). It is getting really tiring (physically and emotionally), as it never seems to end. Any advice would be VERY warmly welcomed. Regards, Victoria

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The answer

We will give you some detailed information about various hayfever treatments including over the counter preparations and prescription medications, such as nasal steroid medication (corticosteroids).


Antihistamines treat hay fever by blocking the action of the chemical histamine and this stops the symptoms of the allergic reaction.

Antihistamines are usually effective at treating itching, sneezing and watery eyes, however they may not help with clearing a blocked nose. Available in tablet form and also as nasal sprays and eye drops and include cetirizine, fexofenadine and loratadine. Azelastine is an effective antihistamine nasal spray and olopatadine is an antihistamine eye drop.

Corticosteroid nasal sprays and drops

Corticosteroids are used to treat hay fever because they have an anti-inflammatory effect and can reduce the inflammation and prevent the symptoms of hay fever. Your GP may prescribe corticosteroid nasal sprays or drops in place of antihistamines if you find antihistamines are not working for you.

Corticosteroids are better than antihistamine tablets at preventing and relieving nasal symptoms, including sneezing and congestion. They can also relieve itchy, watery eyes. Your GP may prescribe corticosteroid tablets for a course of five to seven days.

Nasal decongestants

A nasal decongestant can relieve a blocked nose associated with hayfever. Decongestants reduce the swelling of the blood vessels in your nose, which opens your nasal passage and makes breathing easier.

Your GP can prescribe a nasal decongestant, but there are many available from your pharmacist.

Eye drops

Eye drops treat the hay fever symptoms that affect your eyes, such as redness, itchiness and watering. Eye drops containing the active ingredient sodium cromoglicate are the most widely used.


If you have persistent hay fever symptoms that aren't relieved by what we have already described, your GP may refer you for immunotherapy treatment. This is where you are gradually introduced to small amounts of the allergen and monitoring your allergic reaction in a controlled environment.

Pollen avoidance

Also try and minimise your exposure to pollen, such as closing windows, wearing wraparound sunglasses and avoiding grassy areas.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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