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Allergies Health Center

Steroid Nasal Sprays Bring Better Hay Fever Relief

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Nov. 27, 2001 -- Instead of popping antihistamines during allergy season, try nasal sprays instead. Looks like they're a better choice for getting long-term relief.

In a study that compared leading steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines, people using the nasal sprays got more complete symptom relief -- and better quality-of-life -- than those taking antihistamines, according to lead author Scott M. Kaszuba, MD, a researcher with the University of Chicago. His study appears in the current issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

It seems allergies cause a one-two punch -- first comes the sneezing, then congestion sets in. Antihistamines help put a stop to sneezing, but nasal sprays actually seem to halt the entire allergic response, Kaszuba says in his paper.

In his study, he randomly assigned spray or pills to 88 people who had suffered from allergies during the fall, when ragweed pollen was peaking in the Chicago area. Half were given nasal spray, and half received antihistamine pills. For 28 days, they were asked to take their medications on an "as-needed" basis, so that the study would simulate real life.

Each participant also kept a diary, recording the severity of symptoms and whether they took medications or not. At the end of the study, each returned to answer questions about their quality-of-life -- how well they slept and whether symptoms interrupted their everyday lives.

The group using the nasal spray had "significant improvement" in terms of quality-of-life and total symptom relief, says Kaszuba. As the season progressed, each using nasal spray did not show any signs of allergic response. "Subsequently, [they] had fewer symptoms and a better quality-of-life," he writes.

He recommends regular use of nasal sprays for people with severe allergic reactions, and as-needed use for those with mild allergies.

His study was funded in part by grants from Glaxo Wellcome, Inc., and from the National Institutes of Health.

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