Many people assume the presence of mucus means a bacterial infection, but antibiotics are not really a hay fever treatment.
If you suffer from strong hay fever, you’ll know how annoying it is to have this continual flow of mucus to deal with.
When you were a child, you were probably told that the mucus contained a lot of harmful bacteria, so as an adult, you naturally think mucus is a sign of potential bacterial infection. But this not necessarily the case.
If you suffer from hay fever, most of the mucus you produce has little to no bacteria. It’s simply white cells being released, and not a sign that there is something wrong with your sinuses.
As cases of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and sinusitis continue to rise in Australia, there is also a growing trend towards people self-diagnosing, and demanding the wrong hay fever treatment. These days, doctors and pharmacists have reported more and more people demanding antibiotics to fight off sinusitis, when their problem is really hay fever.
Hay fever and sinusitis are different conditions that require different treatment, but too often antibiotics are seen as the ‘go-to’ cure for all manner of nasal congestion before the real problem has even been diagnosed.
Sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal sinuses, usually caused by bacterial infection following a cold. Because it’s an infection, short-term sinusitis can be treated with antibiotics, but still should only be prescribed if the symptoms continue for 7 days or more.
Long-term sinusitis can be triggered by bad colds, allergies, or structural problems in the nose, and may require different treatment.
Hay fever is the body’s immune system’s response to particular substances, like pollen, animal hair, and dust mites. It tends to be seasonal in nature, and is heavily dependent on the environment. A popular hay fever treatment is antihistamines.
It’s easy to confuse them because many of the symptoms are very similar like runny noses, and watery itchy eyes. And allergies can often lead to sinusitis by causing the sinus and mucus linings to become inflamed, and preventing the sinus cavity from clearing the bacteria.
However with sinusitis, you may also get headaches and fatigue, which is a result of the nasal passageways becoming inflamed and mucus becoming backed up in the sinuses. This can result in pressure on the face or chronic fatigue.
While the symptoms are similar, it’s really important not to misdiagnose the two because the treatment is quite different. You may feel that your doctor is not taking your condition seriously when not prescribing antibiotics, but in reality, your doctors is probably preventing you from taking in antibiotics that are not doing anything to relieve your condition, and going from one prescription to the next without relief.
Dr Suzie Bekir, Clinical Director of Collective.Care’s Specialist allergy centre says:
"People have become so used to the idea that you need antibiotics to fix everything that there is a real danger of over-medicating, and this can have a serious impact on a person’s health and immune system in the future."
Doctors also have a responsibility not to create a rise in demand for stronger antibiotics, because in the past, this has led to the pharmaceutical industry to respond by producing more powerful antibiotics, which then causes the bacteria to respond by creating drug-resistant strains, which cause more severe strains of sinusitis.
What to do if you notice nasal congestion symptoms?
If you start to experience nasal congestion that is more than a common cold, it’s best to consult your doctor to see whether it is actually a bacterial infection, or simply a case of hay fever. If it is hay fever, antibiotics are really not the answer. It’s better to opt for a hay fever treatment like antihistamines, nasal sprays, decongestants, or natural products like a salt water nasal rinse.
If your hay fever is chronic, your doctor may even suggest endoscopic surgery to drain the sinuses, or immunotherapy, which is a treatment carried out by a clinical immunologist or allergy specialist that reduces the severity of symptoms over time. For more information about immunotherapy, click here.
If you have concerns about your hay fever, contact us at our BULK BILL allergy clinic on 1300 344 325 or use our online appointment system, and book in to see one of our specialists who will suggest an alternative that is right for you (click here).