Allergic Rhinitis: Hay Fever Treatment

Reviewed by Ann Hefel, RN

The goal of treatment for hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) is to reduce symptoms. This often includes identifying, controlling and/or treating things that make your symptoms worse, as well as using and understanding medications.

Anti-inflammatory medicines: These control inflammation in the body. This inflammation causes redness and swelling (congestion).

Nasal steroid sprays: These work well to reduce nasal symptoms of sneezing, itching, runny and stuffy nose. Nasal steroids may also improve eye symptoms. A steroid nasal spray may work after several hours or take several days to work, but the best benefit is usually found after regular extended use. Nasal steroids work best if you take them daily. Nasal steroids are often the most effective medications for nasal allergy symptoms.

Montelukast: This is an anti-allergy medication that blocks certain allergy mediators and reduces swelling, sneezing and runny nose.

Cromolyn and Nedocromil: These are anti-inflammatory medicines that are not steroids. They may help prevent nasal and eye symptoms. Unfortunately, these are often not as effective as some other allergy medications.

Nasal wash with salt water: This may help clean out your nose, and, when done routinely, this can also lessen postnasal drip. If you do a nasal wash, do this before using other nasal medicine.

Antihistamines: These can help decrease allergy symptoms. They may be used daily during allergy season or just when allergy symptoms occur. There are many different antihistamines. If one doesn't work, another can be tried. Some can make you sleepy, and some do not. They may also affect thinking and your reflexes. Because of this, it is best to avoid a sedating antihistamine, especially if you will be driving or using any kind of machine. If possible, it is best to use a non-sedating or less sedating antihistamine.

Decongestants: These help when your nose is stuffy (congestion). They are available as pills, liquids or nasal sprays. Many are available over the counter. Use caution when taking a decongestant nasal spray. Using one longer than four days can have a severe rebound effect. This may cause you to have a lot more nasal congestion.

Allergy shots (also known as immunotherapy): These may be very helpful for specific allergies that aren't controlled with medicine. You should see a board-certified allergist for allergy testing or allergy shots.

Allergen avoidance
The best way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to avoid the things to which you are allergic. Learn about how to reduce exposure, based on your type of allergy:

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