Hay fever relief

We look at ways to help hay fever suffers such as hay fever medications. 

Hay fever (or allergic rhinitis) affects nearly one in five Australians. It is most common in the middle stages of life for people aged 15-59, and can occur seasonally or throughout the year. 

One of the simplest hay fever treatments is to avoid or limit your exposure to hay fever triggers such as pollen, mould, dust or animal fur as much as possible. 

However, this is not always possible, and if your hay fever symptoms aren’t too severe, over the counter hay fever medications is a good way to help hay fever symptoms. For more problematic cases, your doctor may recommend prescription medication for hay fever relief. 

In some cases, you may need more than one hay fever treatment to target different symptoms that are causing you discomfort. For example, you may need a product to help with a blocked nose and another to help with itchy eyes.  

What to use for hay fever

There are a variety of hay fever medications and hay fever remedies that your pharmacist or doctor may recommend. Remember to let your health care provider know if you have any pre-existing health conditions or are taking medication, and always check before giving any hay fever treatments to children.

Some common options include: 

Corticosteroid nasal sprays 

These nasal sprays help prevent and treat nasal inflammation and contain a very low dose of steroids. They are one of the most effective hay fever medications and can help with a runny nose and nasal itching. 

They need to be used regularly and as directed to be effective and are often the first type of hay fever treatment prescribed to help with hay fever relief. They are a safe, long-term treatment for most people and side effects from the steroids are rare. 


Antihistamines may help with sneezing, itchy or runny eyes, runny nose and itching. 

Antihistamines work by blocking the chemical histamine, which is released by the immune system during an allergic reaction. 

Oral antihistamines come in tablets in two forms: sedating and non-sedating. 

Sedating antihistamines can be helpful to aid in sleep, but should be used with caution if driving or operating heavy machinery. People who suffer from epilepsy and glaucoma should also exercise caution with this form of antihistamine. 

Doctors will often recommend a non-sedating antihistamine for hay fever relief, but even some of these can cause drowsiness. 

Antihistamines are also available as a nasal spray over the counter, and can act faster than tablets. They help with sneezing and an irritated, runny nose caused by exposure to allergens. 

Antihistamine eye drops can help with itchy, swollen or teary eyes.  

Woman with hay fever sneezing in to a tissue

Decongestant medicines reduce swelling and congestion in the nasal passage, and work by narrowing the blood vessels in your nose. They are designed for short-term use, and are usually only used as hay fever remedies if antihistamines and corticosteroid nasal spray treatment haven’t helped. 

Decongestants are available in tablets as well as nasal sprays. 

Decongestant nasal sprays should not be used for more than three days at a time, as they can damage the lining of the nose and worsen symptoms.  

Oral decongestants should only be used as a short-term medicine for hay fever allergies and can cause side effects like insomnia, anxiety or restlessness. Those with diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, glaucoma, hyperthyroidism, urinary retention and those taking MAOI antidepressants should avoid taking oral decongestants. 


Using salt based nasal sprays or rinsing your nose with a salt water solution can provide hay fever relief, and removes allergens like pollen from the lining of your nose. You can buy rinsing devices like squeeze bottles or saline nasal sprays from the pharmacy. 


If medicines for hay fever allergies don’t help your symptoms or offer any hay fever relief, your doctor may suggest immunotherapy. Also called desensitisation therapy, immunotherapy involves receiving small amounts of allergens. Exposure to the allergens in increasing amounts improves tolerance to allergens and reduces symptoms. It can be particularly effective for allergies to cat fur, dust and pollen from trees or grass.  

For more in depth information on hay fever, take a look at our Hay Fever Survival Guide. And for more general tips on hay fever relief, take a look at our article on ways to ease the sneeze.
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