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Nasal Corticosteroids against Hay Fever

Corticosteroid and antihistamine medications belong to the so called “first-line” treatment options, when it is needed to relieve the symptoms of hay fever. Runny and stuffy nose, frequent sneezing, feelings of pressure or pain beneath the soft tissues of the face - this is a typical picture of allergic rhinitis or hay fever. In order to relieve and prevent such unpleasant symptoms – doctors usually prescribe either antihistamines or corticosteroids.

Statistically, antihistamine medications are used more frequently than corticosteroids. However, during the past few years this pattern seems to be revised due to the results of different clinical studies, showing nasal corticosteroids to be more effective in treating hay fever than the second generation antihistamines (e.g. loratidine, cetirizine) and even allergy shots. For example, in 2002 scientists from the University of Chicago Chronicle proved that nasal corticosteroids are more effective than antihistamines when used “as needed” or in response to symptoms.

Starting the description of nasal corticosteroids, it is necessary to dispel the myth about the tremendous harm of these medications. First of all, it should be underlined that corticosteroids are very powerful medications; and if we use attribute “powerful” referring medicine we should always keep in mind the increased risks of side effects. On the other hand, there is a simple way to avoid serious side effects of powerful medications: strictly follow doctor’s instructions, never increase the dose, frequency of administration, or duration of the treatment course by yourself. Second, corticosteroids against hay fever are made in the form of nasal sprays, which significantly decreases the risks of side effects in comparison to, for example, orally administered corticosteroids. Third, corticosteroids are not the same as anabolic steroids, which are sometimes used by some bodybuilders in order to boost muscle growth, and which may really pose serious danger to the human health.

In general, corticosteroids belong to a class of steroid hormones, which are produced by adrenal gland. They are involved in supporting many body functions; for example, corticosteroids play an important role in defining a specific way in which the human body reacts to stress or external irritant\allergen. In order to relieve the symptoms of hay fever, scientists use the ability of corticosteroids to reduce the amount of histamine and prostaglandins, which cause inflammation. Applied locally, nasal corticosteroids reduce swelling in the nose, relieve itching, sneezing and nasal congestion. 

As for the names of nasal corticosteroids – there is a great variety of products available on the market these days. Beconase, Rhinocort, Flonase, Nasonex and Nasocort      are some of the representatives of nasal corticosteroids used in the treatment of hay fever. It is worth noting that scientists, who compared different types of nasal corticosteroids, did not find any significant differences between different branded products. So, it is generally recommended to try different products to find the one, which works best for you.

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The frequency of corticosteroids administrations may vary depending on the particular product and the condition treated, but mostly nasal corticosteroids are used once or twice daily to treat the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. It takes some time for them to start working, so the first relief should be expected in a couple of hours (up to 12 hours for some products) after the first administration. However, even in case of symptoms improvement a patient is usually recommended to continue treatment for up to 1-2 weeks in order to achieve maximum results.


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