Health & Well-being28th April 2014

Misuse of Hay Fever Medication Causes Misery for Millions

As Allergy Awareness Week gets underway, there are calls for hay fever sufferers to get the right medication and use it correctly

by Sarah Lawrence

We all enjoy a lovely warm Spring and a hot Summer, but for many people high pollen rates lead to misery. Incovenient and miserable for mild sufferers, symptoms can be very severe for those that suffer the most. For some people, they seek to manage their hay fever through visits to their GP but for many, off the shelf hay fever medication is the option taken. For Deaf people, who often struggle to communicate effectively with their GP, the latter option might be taken when a visit to the GP should be the chosen route.

Today, on the first day of Allergy Awareness Week, Allergy UK is highlighting the error rate in the choice of medication and the way in which that medication is taken and they are calling on individuals to urgently review their medication, before the grass pollen season takes hold.

According to Allergy UK millions of people are suffering unnecessarily.

 The national charity estimates that nearly 18 million people have hay fever (or seasonal allergic rhinitis) in the UK. 

But new research reveals that for 62% of hay fever sufferers, their current hay fever medication is not effective. 

Only 4% say their hay fever medication actually eliminates symptoms. But for the majority (60%), medication only makes their hay fever bearable. 

Allergy UK is calling for individuals to urgently review their medication, before the grass pollen season takes hold.

 The new research, released to coincide with Allergy Awareness Week (28th April to 4th May), pinpoints to misuse of medication as being a major cause of suffering.

 Over one in three (39%) hay fever sufferers use a steroid nasal spray but the research revealed only 14% are actually using it correctly. This means that for over 86%, their nasal spray just won’t work properly. 

Hay fever sufferers are spending a fortune on allergy remedies, with the market worth an estimated £117 million. 

Maureen Jenkins, Director of Clinical Services at Allergy UK says, “Our research shows how reliant sufferers are on hay fever medication, but for so many it simply isn’t working, or is being used ineffectively. This Allergy Awareness Week we are urging people to check whether they are using their medication correctly rather than just soldiering on and prolonging their suffering. If symptoms aren’t improving with treatment, it’s so important to get medical advice to control this debilitating condition, which is also associated with the development of asthma.”

84% of those who use antihistamines do so on a daily basis. 62% of those who use steroid nasal sprays use them every day and 56% of those who choose eye drops use them daily throughout the hay fever season. 

Nearly half (48%) of those who use blue (reliever) asthma inhalers are using them more than a few times a week, meaning their asthma is not under control. 

Worryingly, the research revealed that if medication wasn’t working, 19% said they would carry on regardless and a further 13% would simply increase the dosage.

Allergy UK is urging hay fever sufferers to talk to their pharmacist about reviewing their medication and nasal spray technique. They have issued the following advice for hay fever sufferers:

• Only taking medications occasionally on the worst days is much less effective and you should aim to start using the preventative/treatment nasal sprays two weeks before your symptoms usually begin

• If you don’t feel your medication is working, go and see your pharmacist or GP, or contact Allergy UK’s helpline on 01322 619898

• If you are using a steroid nasal spray, tip your head forward (not back), look down, insert the nozzle and spray towards the outside of the nose

• Using a seawater nasal spray to clean nasal passages and wash-out mucus from blocked noses and sinuses can provide temporary relief and prime the nose for treatment

• In the UK, people with allergic rhinitis typically treat themselves with antihistamines. However, over one in ten (12%) hay fever sufferers are using sedating antihistamines, which can cause side-effects such as drowsiness. Opting for a once a day medication will ensure you don’t get drowsy, so it won’t affect driving, work and social life or concentration 

• If the first antihistamine you try is not helping, switch to another after discussing with your GP or pharmacist

• For moderate to severe symptoms, a spray that contains steroid plus antihistamine can now be prescribed by your GP, as can stronger eye drops. Additional drugs are available on prescription for people who suffer seasonal asthma as well as hay fever symptoms

• Nasal sprays that contain decongestants may be useful on the worst days or for additional relief of congestion for an exam or special occasion but should not be used regularly because, after a few days use, they cause rebound congestion, making symptoms worse

• Many other tips to help control hay fever are on the Allergy UK website 

Allergy Awareness Week runs from 28th April and Allergy UK is encouraging everyone to get involved to show their support. Raise awareness. Save lives. #AllergyWeek. Contact Allergy UK for more details on how you can get involved with fundraising.
 Allergy UK 
is the leading national medical charity providing advice, information and support to people with allergy and food intolerance. They make a difference through a dedicated helpline and network for sufferers. Through Allergy UK's helpline 01322 619898 and website: people are able to receive individual advice and download fact sheets on all aspects of allergy.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Health & Well-being

28th April 2014