Seasonal allergic rhinitis is irritation in the nose after exposure to allergens, such as tree, grass, or weed pollens. This common condition is sometimes called hay fever. It results in uncomfortable symptoms, such as sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and sinus pressure and congestion. The best treatment approach is avoiding allergen exposure but it can be difficult with certain allergens. A newer approach is the use of nasal filters, devices inserted in the nostrils to help filter allergens before they enter the sinuses.
Researchers wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of nasal filters in preventing seasonal allergy symptoms during a regular pollen season. The study, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, showed that nasal filters were effective for managing seasonal allergic rhinitis.
The randomized crossover trial included 76 adults with grass pollen-induced allergic rhinitis. Participants were randomized to an active nasal filter or a placebo filter then brought to a public park during high pollen season. The participants wore their assigned filter on the first day for 7.5 hours and asked to rate their symptoms every 30 minutes. After 12 days, participants were asked to wear the alternate filter for a second day of study and report their symptoms again. Pollen levels were more than twice as high on day 2 as they were on day 1.
On the second trial day, the study found that the active nasal filters significantly improved the following symptoms:
The improvements were not apparent in the first day of trial when then pollen levels were lower. There were no adverse events reported with the use of the filters and participants were able to tolerate them well.
A randomized trial is considered the most reliable form of research, but how the research is done will affect its reliability. This study was conducted in an uncontrolled natural setting. The results may not be the same if the study were conducted in another setting with different variables related to location and time of year.
Allergy medications can decrease the body's reaction but do not completely stop symptoms. The medications also often needs time to build up for its maximum effectiveness. Nasal filters may help fill the gap between the appearance of allergens and time needed for medication to take effect. After all, the best way to manage allergies is to avoid the reaction in the first place and the nasal filters may help you do that. Ask your doctor whether a nasal filter may help you avoid allergens and reduce your symptoms.
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 3, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2016.
Kenney P, Hilberg O, et al. Preventive effect of nasal filters on allergic rhinitis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover park study. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Dec;136(6):1566-1572.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD