Hay fever sufferers rejoice -- new research has shown a three-year course of pills or injections could drastically reduce symptoms over the long-term.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), was led by scientists at Imperial College London. The results reinforce previous findings indicating medication needed to be taken for longer in order to deliver lasting benefits, according to Professor Stephen Durham.
"You treat patients for three years and then they have a big improvement in their hay fever for several years afterwards," Durham said.
"Clinicians and patients should continue to follow international guidelines that recommend a minimum of three years' treatment."
Hay fever affects around one in five Australians, causing sufferers to have itchy eyes, bouts of sneezing and a runny nose.
Rather than relying on over the counter medications, patients who experience more severe symptoms are often treated with immunotherapy.
This involves sufferers being exposed to grass pollen extracts and building up their resistance through either injections or pills containing the extract, which Durham believes is an effective treatment for people with debilitating symptoms .
"Hay fever causes major impairment of sleep, work and school performance and leisure activities during what for most of us is the best time of the year," he said.
"Most people respond to the usual antihistamines and nasal sprays, although there is a portion who do not respond adequately or who have unacceptable side effects to the treatment."
Researchers tested the effectiveness of two immunotherapies which use grass pollen extract -- one being an injection and the other a pill taken under the tongue. Volunteer patients from the Royal Brompton Hospital in London were split into three treatment groups: injection, tablets and placebo.
The results indicated that while both therapies were effective at relieving symptoms, a year after patients had stopped the therapy, they were no better off than the group who had received the placebo.