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Home / Hay Fever / Hay fever treatments: what’s suitable for your symptoms

Hay fever treatments: what’s suitable for your symptoms

How to find the best hay fever treatment

The spring and summer months can be difficult if you have hay fever. But thankfully, there are many different treatments you can try.

There are many options for all types of hay fever symptoms. However, deciding which treatment is best for you can be difficult.

Old man lying on bed blowing his nose with hay fever medicines in the foreground.

In this article, we are summarising the hay fever treatments available. So, you can pick the best treatment and keep your hay fever symptoms at bay.

Can you cure hay fever permanently?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for hay fever. If you have it, you will likely have it on and off for the rest of your life. Thankfully, symptoms are manageable with treatments.

The main way to manage hay fever symptoms is by taking antihistamines.

Hay fever is when your body has an allergic reaction to something in the air, like pollen or dust. Your body makes a chemical called histamine when it reacts. This causes your immune system to respond.

Antihistamines are types of medicine that help reduce symptoms. They work by stopping histamine production. You can find them in different forms such as tablets, liquids, and capsules.

You can also get treatments for specific symptoms. For instance, if your main symptoms are watery or itchy eyes, you can get eye drops.

Oral antihistamines

Oral antihistamines are the most common hay fever treatment. If you have multiple hay fever symptoms, this is the best option because you only need to take one medication.

You can take them when you feel symptoms occur or as a preventative measure when the pollen count is high. You can use an allergy medication to manage your symptoms.

If you take it, it can help make the reaction not as bad and not last as long. It also prevents the reaction from happening.

There are several drugs available both over-the-counter and on prescription.

Over-the-counter Prescription
  • Loratadine (Clarityn)
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Chlorphenamine (Piriton)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)
  • Levocetirizine
  • Desloratadine
  • Mizolastine
  • Azelastine

If your symptoms are mild, you can use over-the-counter antihistamines.

If your symptoms are more severe, you might need a prescription from the doctor. Some strong antihistamines can make you sleepy, so do not take them if you have a lot to do during the day.

Nasal sprays and drops

The next hay fever treatment on our list is nasal sprays. These treatments help with nasal symptoms such as a stuffy, runny or itchy nose.

Young woman using a nasal spray for rhinitis.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, there are different options available.

Nasal decongestants

Most cases can be treated with over-the-counter decongestants. While they are mostly used for colds and flu, they work well for hay fever symptoms.

  • Oxymetazoline is a common ingredient in over-the-counter nasal sprays and drops. However, do not use it for longer than a week as it can make your symptoms worse.
  • Phenylephrine and Pseudoephedrine can be found in several over-the-counter decongestant tablets.
  • Olbas oil is a natural ingredient found in sprays and drops.
  • Saltwater (saline) sprays and rinses are also good natural options for nasal congestion.

Steroids

Your doctor can prescribe you corticosteroid nasal spray or drops for more severe hay fever symptoms. They work by targeting inflammation in the nasal passages, which reduces symptoms.

The most commonly prescribed steroids include:

Steroids are not suitable for everyone. Only use steroids if your doctor has advised you to do so.

Eye drops

If your main hay fever symptoms are itchy, red or watery eyes, your best treatment is eye drops.

Young woman using eye drops.

The main medicine available is sodium cromoglicate. It works similarly to antihistamines in that it stops histamine production, preventing a reaction. It also prevents other chemical reactions that cause inflammation and discomfort.

Eye drops are easy to find at any local pharmacy, just ask your pharmacist.

Anti-itch creams

Another common symptom of allergic rhinitis is hives. Hives (urticaria) is an allergic reaction which causes a blotchy, itchy red rash across your skin.

Close up of person applying cream to hives rash.

You can get anti-itch creams that directly target the hives. They help to reduce itchiness, inflammation and any redness after coming in contact with an allergen.

There are different creams you can use for hives:

  • Over-the-counter anti-itch creams that contain ingredients like crotamiton can help reduce itchiness.
  • Antihistamine creams stop the itching and target the histamine chemicals. They can be used for hives but also bug bites or stings.
  • Hydrocortisone is a mild steroid that helps reduce inflammation and itching. Many products contain anti-itch ingredients like crotamiton as well as hydrocortisone. You will need to consult a pharmacist before using a steroid.

Allergy immunotherapy

Your doctor may refer you for allergy immunotherapy if you have severe allergies or hay fever. It aims to build up a tolerance to pollen. This way, your immune system does not mistakenly fight it and cause a reaction.

Doctor and patient consultation.

The most common type is injections. You will be injected with a purified extract of the allergen regularly. Alternatively, the specialist may recommend you for SLIT (sublingual immunotherapy). It is commonly used to control airborne allergies like pollen and involves a tablet, drops or spray under the tongue.

It is a specialist treatment that is expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, allergy specialists only offer it to people with very severe allergies. These include individuals who have:

  • life-threatening reactions to bug bites or bee stings
  • severe hay fever for which regular treatments have not worked
  • severe animal allergies and/or work with animals

If you have asthma, you may be able to have it depending on the nature of your allergies. It is not suitable for those who have mild allergies, multiple allergies or for those who get allergic rashes (atopic eczema).

Hay fever treatments comparison table

Treatment Examples How it works Who it's for
Oral antihistamines Cetirizine (Zirtek) or Fexofenadine (Allegra) Target the chemical reaction that causes allergy symptoms. People who want to prevent or treat mild to moderate hay fever symptoms.
Nasal sprays and drops Nasal decongestants or steroid sprays (e.g. Fluticasone) Reduce nasal congestion and inflammation in the nasal passages. People who particularly struggle with nasal hay fever symptoms.
Eye drops Sodium cromoglicate Targets the chemical reaction that causes allergy symptoms. People who particularly struggle with itchy or watery eyes.
Anti-itch creams Antihistamine or steroid creams Reduce itching, redness and swelling. Target chemicals that cause the reaction. People who need topical relief for hives.
Allergy immunotherapy Immunotherapy injections or SLIT Small doses of the allergen increased over time help your body build a tolerance to the allergy. People who have severe or life-threatening allergies that can’t be controlled by typical treatments.

How do I stop hay fever immediately?

Unfortunately, no treatment will stop your symptoms as soon as you take it. It will usually take around 30 minutes to an hour for treatments to work.

However, if you’re looking for immediate symptom relief, you can always prevent the symptoms before they occur. If you know there will be a lot of pollen in the air that day, you can take preventive measures.

For instance, you can take medicine beforehand to avoid having an allergic reaction.

Prepare for pollen season

Order your treatments online

There’s no such thing as over-preparing for hay fever season, especially when you can order your antihistamine online. Order prescription hay fever treatments online at euroClinix.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Anand Abbot MRCGP Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 29-08-2023
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Further reading

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