ASMI supports the role of oral antihistamines in the management of hayfever

30 November 2017

Return to Media Release Index

The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) today urged consumers who suffer from hayfever to discuss their symptoms with their doctor or pharmacist so that they receive the most appropriate treatment plan.

This statement was in response to media reports suggesting there is no role for oral antihistamines in the management of seasonal hayfever.

Hayfever is the common name for a condition called allergic rhinitis (AR). Symptoms include sneezing, headaches, a runny or stuffy nose, itchy ears, nose and throat, and red, itchy or watery eyes.

Many people associate hayfever with spring, when airborne pollens from grasses are at their peak. This is called seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR). However, for many people, hayfever can occur at any time of the year, usually as a reaction to allergens around the home, such as dust mites, moulds, animal hair or fur, or occupational allergens. This is known as perennial allergic rhinitis (PAR).

Common over-the-counter (OTC) products used to treat AR include intranasal corticosteroid sprays, oral non-sedating antihistamines and intranasal antihistamine sprays. Current Australian guidelines1 recommend intranasal corticosteroid sprays for use as a first-line treatment for persistent mild and moderate-to-severe SAR and PAR. These nasal sprays are available over-the-counter (OTC) and contain corticosteroids. These products need to be used regularly as directed to be effective. Long term use of more than six months should be under the guidance of a GP.

Non-sedating oral antihistamine medicines can also be beneficial and may be used in combination with intranasal corticosteroid sprays2 when the symptoms such as of seasonal hayfever strike. This combination therapy may especially benefit consumers whose symptoms are not well controlled with an intranasal corticosteroid sprays alone, those who suffer more itching and watering of the eyes, and those who are just commencing treatment, because the onset of the treatment effects of the combination is likely to be faster. Furthermore, the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recommend either a non-sedating oral or intranasal antihistamine as the first line of treatment for intermittent mild AR or it can be used in combination with other treatment options."

For children under the age of 12, non-sedating oral antihistamines are an established first-line treatment option for mild symptoms of hayfever3 and continue to remain the mainstay in the treatment for allergic disorders. These are available in pharmacies in child-friendly formats such as syrups or chewable tablets.

In addition to speaking with a doctor or pharmacist, there are some useful patient and consumer resources available on the ASCIA website. ASMI encourages consumers to use these products as directed on the label instructions, and to see a doctor if symptoms persist. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your GP or pharmacist for advice.


  1. Allergic Rhinitis Clinical Update Sept. 2017, ASCIA (Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy)
  2. Meltzer, E.O. Allergy and Asthma Proceedings, Volume 27, Number 1, January-February 2006, pp. 2-8(7)
  3. Fireman, M. J,Allergy Clin Immunol.  2000;105:S616-21.
  4. Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma (ARIA) guidelines-2016 revision, Bro┼╝ek, Jan L. et al. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 140 , Issue 4 , 950 - 958