Fall allergy season makes early entrance for patients
Although the fall allergy season isn't in full swing yet, millions of Americans are already experiencing symptoms—sneezing, stuffy and itchy noses, red and swollen eyes, and scratchy throat, sometimes accompanied by headaches and drowsiness. Experts note that the dry weather across most of the nation and high ground-level ozone levels this summer have made conditions ideal for ragweed, thereby hastening the hay fever allergy season.
Ragweed, the major culprit in hay fever, is a common weed that grows in most regions of the country. Its pollen is released into the air, starting first in the North, where peak pollen counts usually hit around Labor Day. Southern states experience peak conditions in late September or mid-October. The season ends at the first frost for most areas and no later than November for warmer areas.
One of the newer OTC allergy products on the market to treat younger people, age six and older, is Children's NasalCrom, from Pharmacia & Upjohn Consumer Healthcare division. The nasal spray is indicated for the prevention of pollen- and mold-induced allergic rhinitis, perennial allergic rhinitis, and animal-induced allergic rhinitis. The product is billed as "the only OTC allergy product of its kind that can prevent allergic reactions before they start." Industry observers report that a large ad campaign is planned, but company representatives declined to comment on the ad effort at this time.
Meanwhile, Hoechst Marion Roussel expects to receive Food & Drug Administration approval for three new formulations of Allegra (fexofenadine hydrochloride): Allegra 120-mg and 180-mg tablets for 24-hour relief of seasonal allergic rhinitis; 30- and 60-mg tablets for seasonal allergic rhinitis and chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU) in children age six to 12; and 60-mg capsules and tablets for CIU in adults.
New on the homeopathic medicine front from King Bio Natural Medicines, Asheville, N.C., is Allergies & Hay Fever. The firm claims the product provides relief of head and nasal congestion; mucus discharges; sneezing and coughing; hoarseness and sore throat; red, itchy or watery eyes; ears that ring or itch; dry mucus membranes or lips; and sensitivity to light. The medicine does not contain alcohol, sugar, or yeast.
R.Ph.s may wish to offer patients these tips from The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), Lynchburg, Va.:
Begin allergy medications one or two weeks ahead of the ragweed season. If they don't provide sufficient relief, or if patients experience medication side effects, they should talk to an allergist about being vaccinated against their allergies. Immunity does not occur immediately, but they can expect some relief quickly.
Try to avoid outdoor exercise during peak pollen release hours, 6 am to 10 am; wear a particle mask when mowing or raking the lawn.
Engage in outdoor activities after a rainfall, when pollen is out of the air.
Take your allergy medications before going outdoors.
Wear sunglasses to keep pollen from getting into your eyes.
After being outdoors, bathe and wash your hair and change your clothes to remove pollens.
Wear eyeglasses instead of contact lenses. Pollen grains can become trapped underneath lenses.
Avoid alcohol. Alcohol stimulates mucus production and dilates vessels, worsening runny nose and nasal congestion.
Animal dander is a leading cause of allergy. Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zyrtec (cetirizine HCl),has launched a Web site, www.petallergy.com, which offers suggestions and treatment options for conquering pet allergies. For year-round allergy information, patients can call (877) 9-Achooo.
With schools back in session, pharmacists may want to partner with parents and schools to prevent children from having fatal reactions to food, insect, and latex allergies. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunnology, Milwaukee (AAAAI), recommends educating allergic children on their allergy and how to avoid triggering it and providing them with a medical bracelet or necklace identifying their allergy.
Judy Robinson, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses, commented, "There are lots of new children coming into schools. Be sure that products are clearly labeled, and let the school know how it can contact a child's pharmacist. Pharmacists can ask if the child has any allergies and give handouts to alert parents as to what to watch for if there would be an allergic reaction to a drug. The parent can pass that information on to the school, especially in schools where there is not a nurse. Many times a pharmacist assumes there's a nurse in the school because someone calls and says, 'I'm calling about your patient who is sick.' They assume it's the nurse calling. Many times it's a health aide or a secretary calling, and this is something for pharmacists to be aware of."