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Seasonal Eye Allergies: What Are They And What To Do About Them.

We haven’t yet gotten to the worst of our spring allergy season. In fact, thanks to a lingering winter, we haven’t really begun our spring allergy season, but it is coming. You know, that time of year when you wash all the green off your car, and then it’s green again in ten minutes.

Unfortunately, if you are living in the Hudson Valley (and if you are reading this, there is a good chance you do), you know that allergies are never far away. Allergies affect as many as 30% of American adults and 40% of children, so let’s take a look at those itchy, red, watery eyes, and find out what to do about them.

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What Are Allergies?

In general, what we think of as seasonal allergies (such as hay fever), are your body’s reaction to airborne particles. While these particles are normally harmless, allergy sufferers’ bodies are sensitive to them and react to them as if they are foreign invaders like a cold.

Symptoms of eye allergies are generally associated with nasal allergies (again, such as hay fever). These symptoms, such as itchy, watery, or blood-shot eyes, happen when your eyes come into contact with the pollen, mold spores, or pet dander common in the spring and early summer. There are other sources of allergens though, such as dust mites, makeup or other chemicals.

While levels of pollen and spores might be lower inside, they are still present, as is dust. Also, those with pets need to contend with pet dander.

Airborne allergies affect men and women alike, however women in particular are at risk from contact allergies. Contact allergies are allergic reactions to substances you come in physical contact with. Some contact lens wearers find that they are allergic to their lens solution. As well, some women may find that they are allergic to certain cosmetics.

Eye Allergy symptoms are fairly easily recognized and include:

  • Red, irritated eyes

  • Itchy, sore, burning, or painful sensations from your eyes

  • Tearing or watery eyes

  • Swolen or puffy eyelids

  • Sensitivity to light

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What To Do About Eye Allergies

For the most part eye allergies are irritating, but not dangerous. Treating eye allergies is usually a simple matter.

  • Avoidance: Quite simply, allergens can’t cause a reaction if you don’t come in contact with them. That includes measures like wearing wraparound sunglasses or staying inside on days with high pollen counts, and (or) investing in a HEPA filter in your home. For those who suffer from contact allergies, talk to your eye care professional about hypo-allergenic options. 

Also, avoid rubbing your eyes. Rubbing your eyes may feel natural, and not rubbing your eyes can be very difficult. However, rubbing your eyes actually makes allergies worse. It causes your eyes to release more histamines, which causes more or worse symptoms.

  • Rinsing: If you wear contact lenses they can trap airborne allergens on your eye. In that case, gently rinsing your eyes out with lukewarm water can help remove allergens and reduce irritation.
  • Antihistamines: Many over the counter eye drops for allergies contain antihistamines. These eye drops are usually effective in easing the symptoms of eye allergies, though they may not be as effective a prescription medications. They also — usually — have moisturizers that help soothe your eyes while the antihistamines relieve the systems of eye allergies.

It should be noted that if you are only suffering from eye allergies you should avoid oral antihistamines. Oral antihistamines can dry your eyes out, and while that may help stop your runny nose, dry eyes will only make eye allergies worse.

  • Artificial Tears: Artificial tears are often overlooked by eye allergy sufferers. After all, the problem is the allergies, right? Well, artificial tears can help to remove allergens from your eye, as well as provide additional moisturizers to help reduce irritation (and the urge to rub your eyes).

Final Thoughts

For most, eye allergies are a yearly nuisance. They are that little annoyance that marks the end of winter and makes finally being able to comfortably go outside again less comfortable. Seasonal eye allergies aren’t especially dangerous and are generally easily treated. However, if your symptoms persist, they might not actually be allergies. Your red, itchy eyes might be symptoms of something else, such as dry eye or an infection. If you have any questions about your symptoms, you should schedule an examination with your eye care professional.

References:

1) Eye Allergies (Eye Allergy Disease), Jay Robert Woody, MD, (author), Melissa Conrad Stoppler (editor), reviewed 4/11/14 http://www.medicinenet.com/eye_allergy/article.htm

  1. Eye Allergies: How To Get Releif From Itchy, Watery, Eyes, Gary Heiting, OD, last updated 7/18/14 http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/allergies.htm