Will this tiny filter save you from allergy misery?

Nasal filter for allergies
© Peter Sinkjaer Kenney

Clinical trials show that the use of a mini nasal filter prevents pollen inhalation and results in significantly fewer symptoms.

Spending time outdoors is the best. Spending time outdoors inhaling pollen that makes you feel miserable is not the best, as any of the 500 million people worldwide who suffer from seasonal allergies can attest to. While there are ways to avoid the worst of it – like staying inside or wearing a gas mask – often the last resort is medication, which can make one feel even lousier.

But now a controlled trial conducted by researchers from Denmark's Aarhus University proves promising for another approach. A tiny filter, with components the size of contact lenses, that sits in the nose and mechanically blocks the inhalation of pollen. It’s an idea that is so obvious it's almost funny; it’s hard to believe that no one came up with it sooner.

The trial only included 65 people and lasted only two days – not the most rigorous of studies, but the team is also working on publishing a study that involved 1,073 participants. But the conclusions were pretty significant. Participants, all of whom suffered grass allergies and who were not receiving treatment at the time, were either equipped with the nasal filter or a placebo device. The nasal filter made a big difference.

"The nasal filter more than halved a number of the most common symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. And when participants initiated use of the filters before symptom onset, the effects were even more pronounced, which we see as an indication of the nasal filter's preventive effect," says professor Torben Sigsgaard from Aarhus University.

For those who used the filter before symptoms started, sneezing and watery eyes were reduced by 100 percent during the whole day, while runny noses were decreased by 84 per cent compared to the placebo.

"Moreover, the subjects with nasal filters did not feel worse, even though the pollen levels on day two were markedly higher than those on day one. This suggests that the nasal filters will become increasingly beneficial as pollen levels increase," says the inventor of the filter, MD-PhD student Peter Sinkjaer Kenney from Aarhus University.

One of the best benefits, the authors say, is that all of this symptom relief comes without the drowsiness that often accompanies pharmaceutical treatments.

"This is interesting because drowsiness is a well-known side-effect of some of the most frequently used antihistamines, and for some, having allergy can in itself result in tiredness. So for some allergy sufferers, this could perhaps turn out to be the most important benefit of the filter," says Torben Sigsgaard.

The study was presented at The 2015 Annual Congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, EAACI, in Barcelona and will soon be published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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