If during allergy season you turn into a sniffling, sneezing tissue-clutching party pooper — take heart. You’re not alone, and there are treatment options. The unpleasant sensations of burning, watery itchy eyes that results from allergic rhinitis, or “hay fever,” can be eased with a few tips.
First though, you’ll want to know why your eyes in particular seem to stage a revolt each season, and what you can do to prevent the discomfort.
Pollen from trees, ragweed, and even grass can cause allergies that come and go depending on the season. These usually harmless environmental factors trigger the immune system to respond as though they’re foreign intruders to be fought, making antibodies. The result? Symptoms you would have if you were fighting a virus or bacteria. Mast cells inside the eye release histamine, creating the red, itchy, burning and irritating condition.
To prevent the same watery itchy eyes each season, you’ll need to know your triggers so that you can avoid them, at least to some extent. You may be referred to an allergist for tests of your skin or blood for help determining your specific triggers.
Risk factors for eye allergies include your geographic history and genes. If both your parents battled seasonal allergies, you’re more likely to follow suit.
First Things First
Before trying any remedies, you need to see your eye doctor. Why? Because seasonal eye allergies, or “allergic conjunctivitis“, can be evidence of a more serious condition which only your ophthalmologist can detect for sure.
Tips For Prevention and Treatment
Once pollen has been identified as a culprit, try these tips for easing those watery itchy eyes and making the most of your spring and summer:
- Avoid outdoor activities when pollen counts are highest.
- Use the air conditioner in your car and home, and keep the windows sealed tight until your symptoms are relieved. Nix window fans so that pollen isn’t ushered into your living space.
- Use eye drops. If adding artificial tears on an already watery eye seems counter-intuitive, try it. You’ll find it helps to flush the allergens away, clearing your conjunctiva and helping it recover. Some drops boast antihistamine and mast-cell stabilizers to effectively stop the immune response. Ask your doctor to help decide which drops are best for you.
- Put your clothes dryer to good use on high-pollen days instead of line-drying, so that spores don’t cling to your linens and irritate your eyes once they’re inside.
- Have your air conditioning unit serviced. A clean unit doesn’t tend to re-cycle allergens into your home or car.
- Fight the temptation to rub your eyes, as this can exacerbate the problem, and in some cases, even cause injury.
- After being outdoors, wash your hands, face, and hair so that the pollen doesn’t continue to irritate your eyes once inside. If you’re still itching and tearing, consider changing your clothes after having been outside as well.
- Trade outdoor gardening and lawn care chores for indoor ones to limit your exposure to pollen when possible.
While irritating, eye allergies don’t usually pose serious threat to your eyesight beyond the temporary blurriness from tears and the risk of injury from rubbing.
For questions or comments, contact Woodhams Eye Clinic.
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