As spring is upon us with a forecast of high pollen levels in parts of Australia this season, and hay fever sufferers once again lamenting the blooming of flowers and blowing of dry winds, NPS MedicineWise is reminding people suffering from their annual allergies to talk to a doctor or pharmacist to work out the best treatment.
NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says that it’s a good idea to seek advice from a health professional when choosing a medicine for hay fever, particularly because of the sheer number of products available.
“Some people put up with hay fever, or just rely on the medicines they always choose from a pharmacy shelf, but they could be missing out on effective treatment,” says Dr Weekes.
“If you talk to a health professional about your hay fever symptoms, they may suggest you try different medicines or a combination before you find what works best.
“It’s also worth remembering that when it comes to hay fever, preventive treatments are just as important for controlling symptoms as medicines that act rapidly on symptoms.”
Always check with your doctor or pharmacist what treatment and dose you need, when to take it, and how to use it safely and effectively. You can also find any warnings about operating machinery or driving with the medicine on the packaging or label.
Dr Weekes also emphasises that you also need to know the right way to use these medicines, for example, regular use of a corticosteroid nasal spray prevents symptoms by reducing inflammation and mucus in the nose. This is the most effective preventive treatment for hay fever and the first line of attack when your symptoms are persistent and severe.
“If you’re prescribed or recommended a corticosteroid spray, make sure you use it for as long as directed,” says Dr Weekes.
“With nasal corticosteroids, the real benefit comes with regular use over a period of several days. It’s also vital that you know how to you use your nasal spray properly because technique does matter, and your pharmacist or doctor can help you with this.”
Information on the NPS MedicineWise website reminds people that antihistamine tablets, syrups or nasal sprays are also commonly used for hay fever and can help you control sneezing, itching and a runny nose, and that some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, which could make it unsafe for you to drive or operate machinery.
According to the pharmacists who staff the NPS Medicines Line, one of the most commonly asked questions about the use of medicines in breastfeeding is whether breastfeeding mothers can take an antihistamine for hay fever. While the packaging of some antihistamine medicines contain a warning about using these medicines while breastfeeding, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is unsafe to use antihistamines while breastfeeding. Antihistamines containing the active ingredient loratadine are usually the first choice for treating hay fever symptoms in women who are breastfeeding.
“This spring, NPS MedicineWise is encouraging people to talk to a health professional to find out about the best possible hay fever treatment tailored to their symptoms and severity, which might include a combination of eye drops, antihistamine tablets, decongestion nasal sprays, corticosteroid nasal sprays, or other medicines,” says Dr Weekes.
To read more about managing hay fever visit http://www.nps.org.au/publications/consumer/medicinewise-living/2014/managing-hay-fever
If you have questions or concerns about your hay fever medicines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist, or for more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).