Allergies are your body’s reactions to allergens in food and other substances. More than one in four people in the UK suffer from allergies. The most common causes of allergic reactions are:
- Grass and tree pollen
- Dust mites
- Animal hair and fur
- Insect bites and stings
- Household chemicals
Although some people can be sensitive to completely unpredictable things.
One of the most common types of Allergy in the UK is allergic rhinitis, also known as HAY FEVER. As many as 20% of the population are affected by hayfever with the most common symptoms being sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose.
Hay fever isn't a curabe condition but is controllable. That's because the cause is actually the body's own immune reaction to an irritant (allergen). The body see's it as harmful and overcompensates to protect itself. An allergen such as pollen will stimulate specific cells in the body that in turn release "histamine" to protect against it. The histamine release causes symptoms such as:
- Runny/blocked nose
- Red, itchy, watery eyes
- Wheezing and coughing
- Red itchy rash
- Asthma and eczema symptoms
Antihistamines - These are the most common types of treatment for hay fever and are available in tablets, liquid, eyedrops, nasal sprays and topical creams. They work by stopping the release of histamine when the body comes into contact with an allergen. This means that you will not develop the symptoms of hay fever or allergy. There are a few over the counter tablets available such as Cetirizine (Zirtek), Loratadine (Clarityn), Chlorphenamine (Piriton) and Acrivastine (Benadryl).
For particularly persistant hay fever, there is also the prescription medication Fexofenadine (Telfast). This medicine is classed as Non-Drowsy and works in the same way as the over the counter medicines but has been found to be more effective in some patients that do not get sufficient relief from the over the counter treatments. It is available as a 120mg and 180mg tablet. 180mg is usually limited for use in patients with hives (urticaria) or with quite severe respiratory symptoms whereas 120mg is used more for persistent hay fever and other allergies.
Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays - Corticosteroids in general (like Prednisolone) are effective when treating conditions that involve the body's own immune response and are effective immunosuppressants.
Coritcosteroid Nasal Sprays (such as Nasonex, Mometasone Nasal Spray, Beconase and Pirinase) work locally in the nose in the same way. They will stop the immune response that causes the histamine release and they also play a secondary role in stabilising all of the cells around the area to stop allergens from entering and causing irritation. That's why most patients using these sprays will also stop suffering from the eye related symptoms of hay fever too.
Long term use of steroid nasal sprays should be avoided as they can cause the skin inside the nose to thin and can sometimes raise the pressure inside the eyes. This doesn't affect everyone. Thankfully most patients will find them effective enough and will not need to use them for more than a couple of weeks.