Hay fever: medicines and home remedies for pollen allergy

Hay fever: medicines and home remedies for pollen allergy

Sneezing, itchy eyes and coughing are just a few symptoms that hay fever sufferers have to contend with during the pollen season. Fortunately, numerous medications are now available to treat pollen allergy symptoms. But a few tips and home remedies have also proven effective for hay fever. From tablets and nasal spray to practical tips for at home and on the go: In our photo series, we closely examine the different remedies for hay fever.

But please note: If you have severe allergic symptoms, you should always seek medical advice; otherwise, the pollen allergy can worsen and even lead to allergic asthma .

Antihistamines as classic hay fever tablets

In most cases, over-the-counter tablets for allergic symptoms caused by hay fever are so-called H1 antihistamines (H1-R antagonists), which inhibit the effect of the messenger substance histamine in the body. They are often based on either the active ingredients, loratadine or cetirizine . The dosage is 10 milligrams each.

Common side effects of both active ingredients are headache and fatigue. However, both cetirizine and loratadine are second-generation antihistamines, with which fatigue as a side effect occurs significantly less frequently than with first-generation drugs. There are no differences in effectiveness . Cetirizine is assumed to have a slightly better effect on allergic skin reactions than loratadine.

They are chemically derived from the two active ingredients desloratadine and levocetirizine. In comparison, however, these two drugs are more effective than cetirizine and loratadine, so they are only taken in half the dose (5 milligrams). Antihistamines containing the active ingredients fexofenadine  and azelastine are also used.

Prescription medication for pollen allergy

Over-the-counter medicines are often sufficient to alleviate the typical symptoms of hay fever. However, medication to alleviate the pollen allergy can also be prescribed if the symptoms do not improve or if taking the over-the-counter medication causes severe side effects or intolerance.

Prescription drugs include the so-called leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRA), drugs with the active ingredient ebastine and some combination preparations with cortisone (e.g. cortisone tablets with the active ingredient azelastine).

Nasal spray for hay fever

Nasal spray is used for hay fever when the symptoms are mainly in the nose. If the pollen allergy causes sneezing, a runny nose or a blocked nose, taking medication in tablet form is unnecessary. Tablets have a systemic effect, i.e., they affect the entire body. Even if side effects occur when taking oral medication, a spray that acts locally on the nasal mucosa can be an alternative.

Hay fever nasal sprays are based on either antihistamines or glucocorticoids. The latter are also referred to as cortisone nasal sprays. Sprays containing cortisone are said to be more effective in the case of severe symptoms, but they work more slowly than nasal sprays with antihistamines.

Caution is advised if the spray contains preservatives, as these can cause allergic reactions. With both nasal sprays, nasal mucosa irritation, such as dehydration and crusting, can also occur as frequent side effects. A nourishing nose oil can counteract this.

Decongestant nasal sprays, such as those often used to treat a cold , should only be used for a short time if you have a pollen allergy, as they should not be used for more than a week. Otherwise, it can lead to a habituation effect ( nasal spray addiction ).

Eye drops for hay fever

As with nasal spray, the same applies here: If the symptoms caused by the pollen allergy are primarily caused by irritation and itching in the eyes, eye drops can be a good way to relieve the symptoms without taking pills.

The same applies to eye drops: preservatives can trigger allergic reactions and irritate the eyes. Therefore, single-use preparations and eye drops with the active ingredients ketotifen or azelastine are recommended. Both are also available without preservatives. Eye drops containing cortisone are rarely used to treat hay fever.

Globules as an alternative for hay fever?

Homeopathic remedies are often used in the form of globules or globules. They are also usually available as tablets or drops. Agents with Allium cepa are used for allergic rhinitis , among other things. Allium cepa is obtained from the onion. Since their essential oils irritate the eyes and nasal mucous membranes when inhaled, the homeopathically used dose of this active ingredient is intended to help against pollen allergy symptoms (principle of similarity).

In addition to Allium cepa, remedies with Galphimia glauca  (little laburnum), Euphrasia (Eyebright) and  Luffa operculata (sponge gourd) are also used for hay fever. The effectiveness of these agents has yet to be scientifically confirmed.

Pollen allergy: medication for prevention

If you know when hay fever usually starts, medication can be used to prevent the symptoms. The corresponding agents usually contain cromoglicic acid  as an active ingredient. Cromoglicic acid inhibits the release of allergy-triggering histamines in the body. Since the acid breaks down quickly when taken orally, the active ingredient is only available as a nasal spray, eye drops, or inhalation. To prevent allergy symptoms, cromoglicic acid should be used around two weeks before the start of pollen count until the end of the stress phase.

Another preventative drug is ketotifen. Eye drops with ketotifen are intended to help prevent allergic symptoms and acute problems.

Nasal rinse as a home remedy for hay fever

In addition to medication, some behaviors and home remedies can help alleviate the symptoms typical of hay fever. This also includes the classic nasal rinse , which is often carried out using a nasal douche.

A nasal douche is available in many drugstores and pharmacies. Suitably dosed bags of table salt are often offered together with the nasal douche. A plastic-free alternative is the so-called “Neti Pot”, which comes from Asia.

With the help of the nasal douche or the neti pot, the nasal cavity is rinsed with a mixture of table salt and (sterile) water. Dirt particles and allergy-causing pollen are removed from the nasal mucous membranes. You can find detailed instructions and tips for the nasal douche here .

Inhalation with eucalyptus oil for allergies to pollen

Inhaling hot steam moistens the nasal mucous membranes and promotes blood circulation. In the case of a blocked nose, inhalation ensures the nasal secretion drains faster, and you can breathe deeply again. A few drops of eucalyptus oil in the water also calms the bronchial tubes in the event of a mild allergic cough . An alternative to eucalyptus oil, a few drops of tea tree oil or a few teaspoons of table salt are also suitable.

To be safe, keep a distance of two hand widths from the hot water when inhaling. If the nasal mucous membranes are swollen and inflamed, avoid inhaling or seek medical advice beforehand. A well-tolerated alternative is inhalers from the pharmacy.

Cool compresses as a home remedy

Cool compresses can provide relief if the nasal mucous membranes are inflamed and the eyes are irritated. To do this, soak two compresses, cotton pads or thin cotton cloths in cold water or cooled thyme or sage tea and place on the affected areas. The tea varieties also have a calming and anti-inflammatory effect. Excellent tea from Eyebright is also said to help with itchy and inflamed eyes.

In addition to using cool compresses, washing your face with cold water several times daily also helps. This will remove the pollen from your face.

Tip for hay fever: ventilate properly

The pollen concentration in the air differs between rural areas and the city depending on the time of day: While the pollen load in rural areas is highest from morning to midday, it is higher in urban areas in the evening. Airing the room early in the morning or evening is advisable, depending on where you live. Pollen protection grids on the windows can also help to keep the exposure to allergenic substances indoors as low as possible.

When it rains, it should be noted that this reduces the pollen concentration in the air in the long term. However, this concentration is increased immediately after heavy rain, probably because the rain destroys the pollen, which then releases more allergens. It is, therefore, better to keep the windows closed for around 20 minutes to half an hour after a downpour and only air them afterwards.

Air purifiers reduce pollen.

Unique air purifiers can reduce the concentration of viruses in the air, but pollen is also filtered out of the room air through high-quality devices. Depending on the model, an air purifier reduces the pollen load by up to 95 per cent within a few minutes. However, the devices were costly: between 150 and 450 euros.

Pay attention to pollen on the body and clothing.

If you have a severe pollen allergy, shower every night before bed, and especially wash your hair to flush pollen from your skin and hair. Sleepwear should be put on immediately after showering.

Important: Do not store your street clothes in the bedroom, as pollen can also stick to them. It would help if you did not remove your clothes in the bedroom to keep the room pollen-free. Regular vacuum cleaning or damp wiping of the surfaces can also reduce the pollen load in the living areas.

Tips for driving with pollen allergy

It has proven advantageous for people with pollen allergies to have a pollen filter installed in their car’s ventilation system. The manufacturer or the responsible car dealership can provide information and, if necessary, support you in purchasing and installing a pollen filter. A pollen filter usually costs a maximum of 30 euros. The pollen filter should be changed every 15,000 kilometers or once a year.

If a pollen filter is installed, the windows should be kept closed when driving to not unnecessarily increase the pollen load in the car. Without a filter, the following applies: During the pollen season, keep the windows in the car closed as much as possible and turn off the ventilation.

The right foods for hay fever

When there is an allergic reaction, histamine is released into the body. This messenger substance promotes inflammation and, thus, the development of allergic reactions. Some foods also contain high levels of histamine. These include tomatoes, bananas, red wine, green tea or smoked meat. Eating a low-histamine diet during the pollen season can help alleviate some of hay fever symptoms.

In addition, existing hay fever can lead to cross-allergies . For example, the allergens from birch pollen are similar to those from certain types of fruit, making it difficult for the body to distinguish between them. Anyone allergic to birch pollen can, therefore, also react to fruits such as apples , plums or cherries. If this is the case, consuming these foods should be avoided as much as possible.

Hyposensitization as a long-term help

In the context of hyposensitization , the smallest amounts of the allergy-triggering substance are fed to the body at regular intervals. On the one hand, this can be done in the form of injections, but oral therapy using tablets or drops has also become established. Desensitization can lead to a long-term improvement in the symptoms as the body slowly gets used to the allergy-causing substance, but the treatment takes several years.

Note the pollen count

If pollen allergies are known, it can be helpful to pay attention to the current pollen count calendar and, if possible, to adapt your own behavior to the intensity of the pollen load – for example, prefer to go for a walk when the pollen load is lower. Our bio weather also provides a daily overview of the current pollen count .


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