If you suffer from pollen allergies you might dread the coming spring months, but could a new and innovative nasal filter finally answer your prayers for an irritation-free summer?
Danish researchers have created a new nasal filter, about the size of an average contact lens, that could potentially reduce pollen allergy symptoms for sufferers. The mini-filter, called Rhinix, is the subject of a clinical trial conducted by researchers from Aarhus University and published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The filter works quite simply: you insert the small filter into both nostrils where it intercepts the particles that can cause irritation, for instance grass pollen which is the most common causes of hay fever.
There are of course a number of nasal filter products on the market, but their effectiveness in treating the symptoms of pollen allergies hadn’t yet been established. As such researchers from the same university had previously studied the overall efficacy of nasal filters. They found that, compared to a placebo, the filters are capable of blocking pollen and in that way can alleviate some symptoms of hay fever.
This new research, which was a stringent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover clinical trial, found the new Rhinix filters could provide high levels of protection. In fact, compared to placebos there was on average a 75 percent reduction in throat irritation symptoms. At the same time, the research showed that the so-called Rhinix filter does not significantly impact airflow, which obviously is a significant concern for anyone looking to use the filters.
Unfortunately, research showed that the filters couldn’t in fact prevent symptoms entirely. That said, even when sufferers still reported symptoms the scientists were able to document “clinically relevant” reductions in sneezing and runny nose symptoms.
Hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, affects people worldwide, and by 2030 it is estimated that as many as 30 million people may suffer allergies relating to gross, plant, weed and tree pollen.
Symptoms usually present most strongly in the spring and fall though can affect people all year round. They include an itching nose, throat and eyes, sneezing, runny nose and tearing eyes and congestion. Hay fever can also make the symptoms of asthma worse.
People of any age can develop hay fever but it usually first develops in school age children. People may grow out of hay fever symptoms or, in some cases, adults may develop hay fever with no past history. Having someone in your family who has hay fever makes you more likely to develop the condition.
Sufferers most commonly rely on antihistamines which can be effective in reducing symptoms but carry a number of side-effects including making people drowsy. Nasal filters would obviously eschew such drawbacks, and so researchers are keen to push testing to the next phase.
Professor Torben Sigsgaard from Aarhus University, one of the people behind the study, is quoted as saying, “We will test Rhinix on a larger scale in collaboration with the Danish Patient Organisation Asthma-Allergy Denmark later in the year. But the preliminary tests in our allergy chamber show that the filter can both alleviate typical symptoms, and that you will not experience unacceptable discomfort when using it.”
The nasal filter is currently a long way off entering production, but this research offers a tantalizing glimpse of a product that in the near future could dramatically cut hay fever symptoms. The filter is promising because it has the scope to be adapted to make it even more useful by being engineered to combat specific pollen, like tree or weed pollen which while affecting fewer people can bring on some the most severe symptoms.
This research trial was indeed limited and it remains to be seen whether the product will ultimately prove viable, but the early promise of the filter suggests that the effort isn’t something that should be sneezed at.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.