Pollen is important for the continued production of plant life, and especially in the spring, it is in the air everywhere. At the same time, pollen can be the bane of existence, irritate the sinuses and cause the most serious allergic reactions. This is commonly known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
There are some over-the-counter treatments, but in many cases, the reactions are stronger than those medications can alleviate. Therefore, doctors are tasked with finding a drug that will actually stop allergy-related symptoms.
Common symptoms of a pollen allergy
Pollen allergies, often referred to as “seasonal” because they are more of a problem during the growing season (spring), are extremely common and the symptoms are easily recognizable. They include:
- Runny or stuffy nose.
- Eyes that itch and cry.
- Itchy nose and throat.
These symptoms are serious enough in people with a pollen allergy, but they can be complicated in people who also have asthma, making asthma symptoms worse and causing asthma attacks.
How does a pollen allergy occur?
Everyone has to breathe, and when pollen is in the air, that means that pollen is inhaled as well. Once in your system, the pollen releases proteins into the lining of the respiratory system. Normally, these proteins do not cause a problem, but in people with an allergic response, the body mistakenly views these proteins as harmful.
In these cases, the body releases antibodies to combat the threat of the body sensing the proteins present, which in turn release histamine, the substance in the body responsible for excess mucus, inflammation, itching, and rashes. Some of the most common pollens that cause allergic rhinitis are:
- Various types of grass (the most common, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation).
- Some trees, especially cedar, oak, poplar, and birch.
- A number of weeds, especially ragweed, tumblewage, and mugwort.
If you are not sure which type of pollen is a problem for you, consulting with a doctor can lead to tests that will determine your sensitivity to various types of pollen. So it’s easier to treat the allergy, as well as work to avoid contact with the type of pollen that causes the most problems.
Medicines for allergic rhinitis
Once a doctor is alerted to the condition and the cause is identified, there are several treatment options, some more common than others. The type of treatment that best solves the problem depends on the severity of the symptoms, the response to certain types of medications, and the type of pollen that triggers the reaction. Take a look at the nine treatment options that doctors can choose from to treat allergic rhinitis.
Antihistamines – Available without a prescription or in stronger doses through prescriptions, this drug is usually provided in pill form, with options for eye drops and a nasal spray. Antihistamines reduce the amount of histamine in the body, relieving the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Decongestants: Also available over the counter as a pill, liquid, or nasal spray, decongestants are another resource for doctors treating hay fever. Decongestants work to relieve inflammation in the sinuses and airways, alleviating a number of symptoms. However, doctors also warn against using decongestants for more than two to three days due to side effects such as insomnia, irritability, headache, and high blood pressure.
Nasal corticosteroids: Because hay fever sufferers seem to find the most relief for hay fever, doctors tend to prescribe nasal corticosteroids first. This is considered safe for long-term use and has few side effects, while preventing and relieving inflammation, itching, and a runny nose.
.Leukotriene Modifiers: In some cases, a patient cannot tolerate nasal sprays. In such cases, these tablets can be prescribed to reduce the presence of leukotrienes in the body (causing excess mucus and other allergy symptoms). This treatment is most often used in people with mild asthma who also have allergic rhinitis, but it is carefully monitored for side effects, which can rarely include psychological changes.