WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO TREAT MY ASTHMA AND HAY FEVER?
Treating asthma and hay fever is important.
Hay fever can trigger asthma or make it worse, making it harder to breathe.
Hay fever is sometimes called ‘allergic rhinitis’ because it is an allergic condition. People often use several strategies to manage their asthma and allergies.
This usually includes:
|Getting the right plan and medications in place to best handle symptoms.
|Checking you are using your asthma and hay fever medications correctly
|Being aware of your triggers and trying to reduce your exposure to them.
|If you get hay fever year-round, this means your treatment needs to be year-round. Speak to your doctor about your treatment options to make sure you have the best treatment for your situation and severity.
|Check out our technique videos by clicking here
|Triggers cause your symptoms. It’s good to reduce your exposure to the triggers that you’re sensitive to.|
People have told us that the cost of their medicine is a factor that makes it hard to always be consistent with their hay fever and asthma management. If this applies to you, ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any cheaper options that are suitable.
OTHER TIPS FOR PEOPLE WITH HAY FEVER (ALLERGIC RHINITIS)
We recommend going to your doctor if you are experiencing any of hay fever.
Be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are pregnant, have other medical conditions, take other medications, or experience nose bleeds.
If your hay fever affects your asthma a lot, it may be worth asking your doctor for an allergy test. An allergy test will help you and your doctor pinpoint your triggers and adjust treatments and lifestyle advice to suit.
By finding out the cause, you can then take on other strategies to help in addition to your treatment. This includes things like:
- tracking pollen monitoring in your area
- removing dust traps in the home like old curtains, carpets, and cleaning with damp cloths
- washing linen and bedding more frequently
HOW DO I TREAT HAY FEVER?
Treatment of hay fever depends how bad and how frequent your symptoms are. Good news is, there is a huge range of different treatments available ranging from tablets to sprays, and generic to brand names.
Antihistamine tablets, syrups, nasal sprays, and eye-drops are the most common choice for people with mild or occasional hay fever. They help to relieve a runny nose, sneezing, itching and eye symptoms. They are less effective in treating a blocked nose.
Many antihistamines are available over the counter at your pharmacy.
The advantage of antihistamines is their flexibility, as you can take them when you have problems, and avoid them when you are well.
Some things to consider about using antihistamines are:
- Antihistamine tablets aren’t recommended for long term daily use for persistent symptoms.
- Antihistamines treat the symptoms of hay fever but not the cause – the underlying sensitivity in the nose. To treat the underlying cause – ask your doctor or pharmacist if a corticosteroid nasal spray is right for you.
- Most people should avoid the types of antihistamines that can make you drowsy. Newer ‘non-sedating antihistamines’ are less likely to make you drowsy and are usually a better choice.
- Some antihistamines aren’t safe to take during pregnancy, so check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Saline solutions can be used to help clear nasal congestion, wash away dust, pollen, and other irritants. They have the potential to relieve some mild hay fever symptoms. They should be used about 10 – 15 minutes before other medicated nasal sprays.
Saline washes and sprays are available preservative-free and may be preferable for those with sensitive noses.
Saline does not reduce the underlying sensitivity in your airway, or directly relieve symptoms. On the plus side, they are simple and chemical free.
CORTICOSTEROID NASAL SPRAYS
Corticosteroid nasal sprays are the best-practice treatment if your hay fever is:
- persistent – you get symptoms nearly every day (e.g. during the pollen season)
- moderate to severe in severity, even if it doesn’t occur every day.
They work to reduce the underlying swelling and sensitivity in your nose (just like your asthma preventer medications reduce the swelling and redness in your lungs). They can reduce all symptoms of hay fever, particularly blocked nose but need to be taken regularly to work properly.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays can take a few days to start to work fully. They work best if used every day.
For people who only need to treat their hay fever during high-risk seasons, starting treatment 6 weeks before exposure is recommended.
Some corticosteroid nasal sprays are available over the counter at your pharmacy and and come in different strengths. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about which corticosteroid nasal spray is best for you.
As with all medications, it is important to use them correctly, so the medicine gets where it needs to. Correct spray technique will also help you avoid damaging the lining of your nose with the nozzle.
TIPS FOR USING NASAL SPRAYS
- Shake the bottle before each use
- Blow nose before spraying if blocked by mucus
- Tilt head slightly forward and gently insert nozzle into nostril
- Aim the nozzle slightly away from the middle of the nose in line with the roof of the mouth
- Press down the nozzle to spray but avoid sniffing hard during or after spraying
You can watch our nasal spray technique video here:
SHORT-TERM ADDITION OF DECONGESTANTS
Decongestant nasal sprays or tablets are used to unblock the nose. They should not be taken for more than a few days at a time. If you continue to experience symptoms you should speak to your doctor about alternatives.
If you use decongestant sprays, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about using a preservative-free nasal decongestant spray and when and how long to use it for.
If your blocked nose if due to hay fever allergies, there may be other options better suited. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about what would work best for you.
Allergen Immunotherapy can switch off your body’s reaction to certain allergic triggers. It uses gradual exposure, over several years. It may come in the form of an injection or as tablets, sprays or drops under the tongue (sublingual).
The aim of this treatment is to desensitise the immune system to the known allergen so that it no longer overreacts to that allergen. Benefits can be experienced within months after starting treatment, but the full course of treatment will usually be 3-5 years. The end result is that you become immune to the allergens, so that you can tolerate them with fewer or no symptoms.
Allergen immunotherapy may be recommended for treatment of hay fever due to pollen or dust mite allergy if:
- Your symptoms are severe.
- The trigger is difficult to avoid, such as grass pollen.
- Medications don’t help or cause side effects.
- You prefer to avoid medications.
Speak to your doctor for more information about immunotherapy or desensitisation. It is likely you will need to be referred to an allergy specialist before starting treatment.
Watch a quick explainer video on allergy immunotherapy here.
Allergen immunotherapy needs you to be able to commit long-term (3-5 years) to work. This may be an expensive treatment as it is currently not subsidised by the government. You may also need to consider the cost of appointments with a specialist, and travel to these as required. However, the results of a full course of treatment should be long-lasting or permanent, so you may save money on allergy treatments in the long run.
Learn more about Allergen Immunotherapy here.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION
Australian Asthma Handbook: https://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/clinical-issues/allergies/allergic-rhinitis
Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy: https://www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-treatment/immunotherapy
Flo, White Magic and echamber are campaign partners of Asthma Australia and have not been involved in the development of this webpage