Pollen-blocking cream may help reduce allergy symptoms

August 16, 2004

CHICAGO - A cream applied to the inside of the nose appears effective in reducing the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, according to an article in the August issue of The Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to the article, allergies are common and are often caused by inhaling or ingesting triggering allergens, such as pollen, dust, mites and animal dander. Hay fever is an inhalation allergy that causes rhinitis- an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose often accompanied by sneezing, itching, nasal discharge, and congestion. Some allergy medications can cause adverse effects, the article states. A new ointment (a "pollen blocker cream") applied inside the lower part of the nose is thought to form a barrier that traps allergens, reducing the number of allergens entering the nose and helps to reduce allergy symptoms.

Swetlana Schwetz, M.D., of the Federal Scientific Research Center, Moscow, Russia, and colleagues tested the effectiveness and safety of this pollen blocker cream in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted from November 2001 through September 2002 in two outpatient centers in Germany and one in Russia.

Ninety-one patients between the ages of 18 and 55 years with at least a two-year history of rhinitis were randomly assigned to receive either pollen blocker cream (n=43) or placebo gel (n=48). Participants applied the products to the lower part of the nostrils four times per day for nine days.

On day one, patients' allergic reactions were measured before application of the product using a face mask in a procedure called the nasal provocation test. The allergen each patient was most allergic to (as determined by a skin prick test) was delivered through the face mask in increasing concentrations over time until a reaction was elicited. Symptoms were scored on a scale of one to four, with four being the worst symptoms.

On day two, patients applied either pollen blocker cream or placebo, and the nasal provocation test was performed again. The rate of airflow in the nasal passageways was measured, and the patients' symptoms were scored. On days two through five, the patients applied their products four times per day. On day six, the study was repeated, with patients who received the pollen blocker cream given placebo, and patients who had received placebo for the first part of the study switched to pollen blocker cream.

The researchers found that the median symptom score decreased from four to one after application of the pollen blocker cream and from four to three in the placebo group. They also found that the increased improvement in airflow in response to treatment was roughly 20 percent in the pollen blocker group and only about 10 percent in the placebo group.

"The blocker was significantly more effective than placebo and reduced the typical symptoms of allergic rhinitis in response to nasal challenge with allergen by nearly 60 percent (placebo reduced symptoms by 25 percent)," the researchers write. "The pollen blocker cream did not produce any adverse effects. Therefore, the efficacy of the investigational product can be rated as good."
(Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004;130:979-984. Available post-embargo at archoto.com) Editor's Note: This study had funding provided by Phyt-Immum GmbH, Homburg, Germany.

To contact corresponding author Alexandre Grigorov, M.D., e-mail alexandre.grigorov@charite.de

For more information, contact JAMA/Archives Media Relations at 312-464-JAMA (5262) or e-mail mediarelations@jama-archives.org.

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