Eye allergies causing red, puffy eyes? You’re not alone — millions of people cope with eye allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis. A cold compress can give you a quick fix before heading out in public. But for long-term relief, you need to identify triggers and treat symptoms…
Eye Allergy symptoms can include redness in the white of the eye or the inner eyelid. Other signs: itchy eyes, tearing, blurred vision, burning sensation, eyelid swelling, and sensitivity to light. Eye allergies can occur alone or with nasal allergies and the allergic skin condition eczema.The only way to know for sure if it’s eye allergies is to see your doctor.
Why Allergies Make Eyes Red
Eye allergies happen when your eyes are exposed to the offending allergen — say pet dander or pollen. Cells in your eyes called mast cells release histamine and other chemicals, causing inflammation. The result: itchy, red, and watery allergic eyes.
Don’t Rub Your Eyes
It may be tempting, but rubbing itchy eyes can make things worse. Rubbing your eyes may cause the mast cells to release more of the
chemicals that caused your eyes to itch in the first place! Instead, take contact lenses out (if you wear them), avoid eye makeup, and apply cool compresses to your eyes. Wash your hands often.
Eye Allergy Triggers: Pollen
If your eyes well up around Mother Nature — and not just because of all the beauty she inspires — you may have seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. Grass, tree, and weed pollens are the worst offenders. When pollen counts are high, stay indoors, keep your windows closed and the air conditioner on. Wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.
Indoor Eye Allergens: Pet Dander
Pet dander, dust mites, and molds top the list of indoor eye allergens. These triggers tend to cause symptoms all year long. To help control pet allergies, keep the pet out of your bedroom. No dog or cat, but can’t resist playing with a friend’s pet? Limit exposure by washing your hands immediately after you touch the pet. Change clothes as soon as you go home.
Mop Away Allergens
If dust mites trigger your runny, watery eyes, invest in bedding and pillowcases that keep them out. Wash sheets in hot water, and try to keep the humidity levels in your home between 30 per cent and 50 per cent. Clean floors with a damp mop. Don’t sweep, which stirs up allergens.
Eye Allergies and Mold
If indoor molds cause eye problems, regularly clean bathrooms, kitchens, and basements where mold lurks. Invest in a dehumidifier, and clean it often. A high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter can help trap mold spores before they attack your eyes.
Treating Eye Allergies
Most drops for eye allergies may have the same medications used to treat nasal allergies: antihistamines, decongestants, and mast cell stabilisers. Antihistamines combat symptoms by blocking the effect of histamine, which can help with itching. Mast cell stabilisers reduce inflammation by preventing the release of chemicals such as histamines from mast cells.
Eye Allergy Drops
Tear substitutes rinse the allergens out of your eye and keep eyes moist. Decongestant drops shrink blood vessels in your eyes, which decreases redness. But using them long-term can actually make symptoms worse.
Oral Medicines for Eye Allergies
Oral antihistamines and decongestants may help control symptoms of eye allergies. However, oral antihistamines have a tendency to further dry out your eyes and may cause drowsiness.
Other Kinds of Eye Drops
Antihistamine eye drops reduce swelling, redness, and itching. Some eye drops have both antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer properties. These drops are available OTC and by prescription. Other prescription options may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug eye drops and steroid-based eye drops.
Can Allergy Shots Help?
Allergy shots work well for eye allergies. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) help your immune system get used to the substances that cause your allergy symptoms. They are usually an option for severe allergies. Treatment can take months, and you may still need to use medicine. Are you a candidate? Talk to your doctor.
( Reviewed by Robert Butterwick, OD)
Frequently Asked Questions About Allergies
What Types of Plants Produce the Most Allergy-Causing Pollen?
The type of pollen that most commonly causes allergy symptoms comes from plants (trees, grasses, and weeds) that typically do not bear fruit or flowers. These plants produce small, light, dry pollen granules in large quantities that can be carried through the air for miles.
What Does a Pollen Count Mean?
A pollen count is the measure of the amount of pollen in the air. Pollen counts are commonly included in local weather reports and are usually reported for mold spores and three types of pollen: grasses, trees, and weeds. The count is reported as grains of pollen per square meter of air collected over 24 hours. This number represents the concentration of all the pollen in the air in a certain area at a specific time. The pollen count is translated into a corresponding level: absent, low, medium, or high.
In general, a “low” pollen count means that only people extremely sensitive to pollen will experience allergy symptoms. A “medium” count means many people who are relatively sensitive to pollen will experience allergy symptoms and a “high” count means most people with any sensitivity to pollen will experience allergy symptoms.
Should I Consider Moving to Decrease My Allergy Symptoms?
No. Moving to a different geographic climate will not help “cure” allergies or allergy symptoms. Most people who relocate to get away from pollens that cause their allergies tend to find that they eventually develop allergies to the plant pollens in the new area.
How Can I Tell If My Child Has Allergies or a Common Cold?
Symptoms of allergies and colds can be similar, but here’s how to tell the difference:
Occurrence of symptoms:
Both allergies and colds cause symptoms of sneezing, congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, fatigue, and headaches. However, colds often cause symptoms one at a time: first sneezing, then a runny nose, and then congestion. Allergies cause symptoms that occur all at once.
Duration of symptoms:
Cold symptoms generally last from seven to 10 days, whereas allergy symptoms continue as long as a person is exposed to the allergy-causing agent. Allergy symptoms may subside soon after elimination of allergen exposure.
Colds may cause yellowish nasal discharge, suggesting an infectious cause. Allergies generally cause clear, thin, watery mucus discharge.
Sneezing is a more common allergy symptom, especially when sneezing occurs two or three times in a row.
Time of year:
Colds are more common during the winter months, whereas allergies are more common in the spring through the fall, when plants are pollinating.
Presence of a fever:
Colds may be accompanied by a fever, but allergies are not usually associated with a fever.