The ointment seems to form a barrier that traps pollen and other allergens -- reducing the number that enter the nose, reports researcher Swetlana Schwetz, MD, an immunologist with Federal Scientific Research Center in Moscow, in this month's issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology.
For people prone to allergies, allergens are indeed the enemy. Just a few grains of flower or tree pollen, some dust mites, or a bit of animal dander -- when inhaled -- throw mucous membranes in the nose into inflammatory mode.
The cream, known as Alergol, is not available in the U.S.
In this study, 91 patients suffering from hay fever or year-round allergies used either the pollen-blocker cream or a placebo gel. They applied the gel into the nostril four times a day for a total of nine days.
On day one, each patient got a whiff of their worst allergen -- enough to trigger an allergic reaction -- without using a nose cream or gel. Researchers noted how bad the reaction was. The researchers analyzed symptoms including nasal discharge, bouts of sneezing, tearing, ear itching, and cough.
On day two, each patient used either the cream or gel, and then got doused with pollen. Again, researchers noted their reaction.
On the following days, patients applied the cream/gel four times a day. No tests were given. On day six, the patients using pollen-blocking cream switched to the placebo gel; patients using the gel switched to the pollen cream. On day nine, patients again got doused with allergens.
Patients receiving the pollen-blocker ointment had a reduction in symptoms score by 75% compared with a 25% decrease in symptoms score in those receiving the placebo cream, reports Schwetz. After exposure to allergens the cream reduced nasal congestion and improved airflow twice as much as the placebo with few side effects, write Schwetz.
However, overall just 50% of patients were classified as "good responders," 25% were responders, and 25% were nonresponders.
The pollen-blocking cream "is a safe and effective alternative to the drugs normally prescribed" for hay fever and other allergies, Schwetz notes.
SOURCE: Schwetz, S. Archives of Otolaryngology, August 2004; vol 130: pp 979-984.