Help for Sneezing Vegans

As a GP, I have noticed many more people complaining of hay fever this year. There are so many remedies available for this annoying and uncomfortable condition, but as with most tablets, they contain either lactose or gelatine, and believe me, I’ve checked a lot of them! So how does a vegan hay fever sufferer treat their symptoms?

You may have read my blogs on painkillers and contraception, and if so, you’ll be noticing a theme; medication doesn’t always have to come in the form of a tablet! I’ve been checking ingredients lists of other medications such as syrups, sprays and drops, and this is blog covers what I’ve come up with.

Let’s start with the antihistamines. Many well known brands offer liquid/syrup forms of their medications, as do some pharmacies. I’ve looked at several of these including Piriton, Piriteze, Clarityn, Benadryl and Boots. They all appear to be suitable for vegans, assuming the glycerol is vegetable derived, and most is these days. I am waiting to hear back from several drug companies about how they source their glycerol, however it seems like a fair risk to take compared with tablets which certainly have animal ingredients in them. As with the liquid pain killers, you will need to work out an adult dose, as most of these syrups are marketed for children. Your pharmacist will be able to help you calculate this depending on which antihistamine you choose.

Some people don’t suffer with the entire complement of hay fever symptoms but may just experience frequent sneezing or a running nose. If this is the case, then you may be able to skip oral medication entirely and just try a nasal spray. I’ve had a look at what’s on the market, and I found the most widely available nasal hay fever sprays were Pirinase and Beconase. Now, as with the syrups, these appear to be suitable for vegans, as the only questionable ingredient (a chemical called polysorbate 80) is usually synthetic or plant based, but occasionally can be derived from animal fatty acids. But, and this is a very interesting but, Waitrose are selling a nasal spray with the exact same active ingredient as Beconase, and it is labelled on their website as ‘Suitable for Vegans’ despite also containing this polysorbate 80. Again, it is on my list of queries that I have sent to various drug companies, so I’ll keep you updated if I find out any more. Minor nasal symptoms may also respond well to a simple sea salt spray, such as Sterimar (I’m sure there are others available), which helps to clear the nasal passages of mucus, and wash away particles causing the allergic reaction from the lining of the nostrils and sinuses.

Lots of hay fever sufferers will complain of itchy eyes, and if this is your only symptom, then perhaps an eye drop would do the job. This, of course, could be used in combination with a nasal spray too, or indeed with an antihistamine syrup if you are really struggling to control your symptoms. The most readily available eye drops for itchy eyes due to allergy is called Sodium Cromoglicate. It appears to be suitable for vegans and is sold by several companies including Optrex, Boots, Tesco and Opticrom.

So, there are options available for those of us who want to avoid medication containing animal products, but always remember that if you are unwell, it is really important to look after yourself first and foremost. I will keep you updated as I find out more about those obscure ingredients and if you’re unsure about the appropriateness of any of these remedies, I’m sure your pharmacist will be able to advise. Please don’t forget that if you are poorly, you can always speak to your own GP.

Thanks for reading,

The Vegan Doctor



5 thoughts on “Help for Sneezing Vegans”

  1. Nice one, thank you! I take quercetin with bromelain throughout the hayfever season and I barely get any symptoms – and they used to be reeeeally bad 😉


    1. I suffered with hay fever all of my life. It seemed to be hereditary. When I became vegan over 30 yrs ago, it dimished somewhat but didn’t disappear completely until I took wheat out of my diet. As a substitute I use tef flour and quinoa flour which are both completrly gluten free and spelt which has low amounts of gluten. Voila! No more sinus problems.


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