Seasonal allergies or hay fever occur when a person’s immune system overreacts to an outdoor allergen. Allergens trigger allergic reactions, and the most common ones include pollens from weeds, grasses, and trees. It is typically characterized by sneezing, water and itchy eyes, itchy sinuses, and runny nose. You may experience allergies for more than one season, depending on what allergens you are allergic to and your location.
A local eye doctor shares what usually causes seasonal eye allergies and how they are different from eye infections.
What Is Eye Allergy?
You’ll know you have an eye allergy if your eyes are irritated and red, but you don’t see anything in them. Symptoms for eye allergies can vary, but they usually come with sniffling, sneezing, or stuffy nose related to nasal allergies. The most common symptoms of this condition are eye redness, burning, itching, and clear, watery discharge. Moreover, an allergist can help determine if eye allergy is what’s causing your symptoms.
Different things can cause eye allergies. Pollens from plants can trigger your allergies if you are outdoors. Inside your home, you may get allergies from pet dander, mold, and dust mites. Others experience eye allergies when exposed to cigarette smoke, perfume, and diesel exhaust.
Eye Allergies VS Infection
Bacteria, parasites, and fungi can cause eye infections. Compared to eye allergies, eye infections have more symptoms. Like allergies, someone who has an eye infection may experience redness, burning, itching, and clear watery discharge. However, an infection may come with pain, light sensitivity, thick or mucus-like discharge, and a gritty feeling in the eye.
If anything that is not like tears is coming out from your eyes or you are feeling pain, it is likely an eye infection. It is best to consult your eye doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of eye infection. A specialist can determine what is causing the infection and recommend proper treatment. For your eye care needs, do not hesitate to reach Clearfinity Eyecare Optometrist. We offer comprehensive medical and vision eye exams to help you maintain good eyesight and eye health. Whether you need new contact lenses or glasses, you can rely on us.
It’s essential to visit an eye doctor because many symptoms of eye allergies and certain eye diseases are the same. If it seems that over-the-counter remedies are not helping with your condition, see an allergist. A specialist may examine your eyes with a microscope to see which blood vessels on the surface of your eyes are swollen. Your eye doctor may also test for a type of white blood cell that shows up on the allergy-affected parts of the eye. This test involves gently scraping the conjunctiva or the inner lining of the eyelid to look for the said cells.
How Do You Get Relief From Eye Allergies?
Use Over-the-Counter Eye Drops
Eye allergies are so common that many brands offer non-prescription eye drops to relieve eye redness and itchiness. These eye drops also help with watery eyes related to allergies. This solution might work for people who have mild symptoms. You may consult your eye doctor if you are unsure which brand to purchase.
Remove Your Contact Lenses
Airborne allergens can stick to and accumulate in your contact lenses. During allergy season, consider switching to eyeglasses. If you are suffering from eye allergies, it’s best to discontinue wearing contacts until the symptoms are gone. Wearing glasses with photochromic lenses may also help since they can reduce allergy-related light sensitivity and protect your eyes against airborne allergens.
Rinse Your Eyes With a Saline Solution
Many people experience dry eyes or excess tears because of allergies. It’s because eye allergies can alter your tear production. Rinsing your eyes with the saline solution will help reduce your exposure to allergens. It will minimize the urge to rub your eyes as well, which is helpful because rubbing can increase histamine production. Increased production of histamine will result in redness, swelling, and blood vessel breakage.
Try Cold Therapy
Individuals with eye allergies may experience redness, tenderness, and swelling in their eyes. Cold therapy can give immediate relief for eye allergy-related symptoms. It can also improve swelling or redness of the skin around your eyes. Simply soak a compress in cool water, wring it out, and place gently over the eyes.
Consult a Specialist to Determine Which Medication May Work For You
You may need a prescription from your eye doctor if over-the-counter eye drops are not giving you relief from allergies. A common oral medication that eye doctors prescribe is antihistamines. When you get allergies, your body releases histamine, which is a substance that dilates blood vessels and makes their walls unusually permeable. Runny nose and itchy, watery eyes are the common symptoms caused by histamine. Moreover, antihistamine prevents histamine from clinging to the cells in your body that creates an allergic reaction.
Decongestants are another type of medication that your doctor may prescribe. They aid in shrinking swollen nasal passages, allowing you to breathe properly. They also relieve red eyes by shrinking the size of the blood vessels on the sclera or the white part of the eye.
Your eye doctor may also recommend taking mast cell stabilizers. This type of medication causes reactions in the cells containing histamine found in tissues throughout the body. You may need to start using this medication before the allergy season begins because it may take a couple of weeks to take full effect.
Sometimes, eye doctors prescribe corticosteroids eye drops to patients with acute eye allergy symptoms. However, there are potential side effects to long-term use of these medications, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and high eye pressure. It’s the reason they are only usually prescribed for short-term use. Your specialist may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as well to reduce swelling, inflammation, and other symptoms related to seasonal allergic conjunctivitis.
Tips on How to Avoid Eye Allergies
Keep Your Windows Closed
You can minimize your risk of getting eye allergies by keeping your windows closed during allergy season. It’s better to stay indoors on the days when the pollen count is high and keep your air conditioner running to rid the air of allergens. A high-quality HVAC filer can catch common allergens. Make sure to replace these filters frequently, especially if someone in your household suffers from allergies.
Run Your Air Purifier
Investing in an air purifier can help remove allergens from your indoor air, reducing the chances of allergy attacks. To cut down your exposure to dust mites, use mite-proof beddings and run a humidifier to avoid mold growth.
Wear Sunglasses or Eyeglasses
When going outside, wear glasses or sunglasses to keep pollen from entering your eyes. The larger the lenses of your sunglasses or eyeglasses, the more protected your eyes will be. If your eyes require vision correction, ask your eye doctor about prescription eyeglasses. This way, you won’t have to switch between prescription glasses and sunglasses.
Wash Your Hands and Face Frequently
One more thing that will help reduce the likelihood of getting eye allergies is practicing proper hygiene. Be sure to wash your hands more frequently during allergy season. Wash your face at least twice a day and rinse the area around your eyes as necessary. Washing your hands and face can help minimize the amount of allergens on your skin. You can also reduce allergen exposure by pinning back hair that may cover your face or eyes.