People with allergies (hay fever) are often unaware that indoor allergens can be a significant trigger for allergy symptoms. Many different microscopic allergen particles are found in the home including pillows, carpet, or on the family pet. It is important to be aware that household fungi or mold, dust mites and pet dander also can affect the nose, eyes and sinuses as well. If you are like most allergy sufferers, you are frightened whenever you hear about elevated pollen counts in your community. Physicians have long known that environmental influences including indoor allergens (dust mites, cockroach and molds) often play a substantial contributory role in what is often referred to as hay fever allergic rhinitis.
Although the percent of the population with diagnosed hay fever in the past 12 months is under 10%, it is believed that at least twice this number are afflicted to some degree. It is not uncommon for many of us to treat this common condition without visiting a physician for an expert diagnosis. It could be that these patients are unaware of the similarities between other illnesses and allergies. The common signs and symptoms, which are similar to a cold, includes sneezing, itching, watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose and increased sinus pressure. A bacterial sinus infection also known as bacterial sinusitis, is often confused with allergic rhinitis and usually is treated with a combination of antihistamines, antibiotics, and topical or nasal steroids.
During specific times of the year airborne substances such as pollen will rise in certain communities to levels that trigger hay fever symptoms in patients that do not commonly consider themselves hay fever suffers. A trial of the following OTC antihistamines (listed in chart) provide most with effective relief to common allergy symptoms. By blocking or reducing your body’s reaction to histamine, triggers that promote inflammation can be reduced and diminished allergic symptoms can be accomplished.
Sedation is a common symptoms of some of the older products prescribed for this condition. Most of the newer medications, also referred to as second generation antihistamines provide once daily administration with little to no sedation. A patient’s specific response to a medication with regard to efficacy and adverse effects can be quite variable. With this in mind, it is a good recommendation to try these medications when at home as opposed to while driving or at work to determine if they will impair your concentration or ability to drive.
Some commonly used OTC antihistamine drugs for treatment of hay fever
Most sedating antihistamines
Least sedating antihistamines
If your hay fever symptoms are acting up, a trial of an OTC antihistamine could provide you with reduced allergy symptoms. Daily use during periods of elevated pollen counts is very important because if the medication is not blocking histamine receptors at the time of their contact with allergens, no protection from histamine reactions would be available.
Adam M. Kaye Pharm.D. , FASCP,FCPhA