With the fresh waves of spring’s new growth comes the dreaded eye allergy season. The misery that comes from red, itchy, watery eyes may have you rethinking your love of the great outdoors. How can you get ahead of spring allergies that can cause so much eye discomfort? Colorado Ophthalmology Associates offers tips for understanding spring eye allergies—known as allergic conjunctivitis—and preventing eye problems caused by allergies.
Symptoms of Eye Allergies
- Watery eyes
- Red eyes
- Swollen eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Often accompanied by nasal allergies – itchy, stuffy, runny nose and sneezing
Causes of Eye Allergies
Substances in the air, such as pollen, grass pollen, ragweed pollen, pet dander, dust, smoke, perfumes, mold, and even cooking odors, irritate the eye and trigger the release of histamines to combat them. The histamines cause the eye to become red and watery and can increase the itchy feeling and the swelling.
Eye allergies can be inherited. If both of your parents suffer from allergic conjunctivitis, your risk for inheriting the condition is greatly increased.
Prevention of Seasonal Eye Allergies
If you suspect you will suffer from seasonal eye allergies this spring, you can begin protecting your eyes by eliminating exposure to the sources of irritation. If the fresh flowers and pollen affect you, avoid these triggers by staying indoors as much as possible. Use air conditioning and keep windows closed. Consider using special air filter units or add HEPA filters to your air conditioner and HEPA bags in your vacuum cleaner.
When you do go outside, try wearing sunglasses, goggles or eye shield to protect your eyes from the pollen. The best time to go outdoors is after a rain has settled the pollen. Avoid windy, dry days and early mornings when pollen count is at its highest. Listen to the weather reports that give pollen counts for the day. Wear a pollen mask outdoors.2
Frequently wash your hands and face to remove irritants before they are inadvertently passed onto your eyes. If you’ve been working outdoors, remove clothes and shower to remove allergens.
Treatment for Seasonal Eye Allergies
While there are over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, that can be taken, some of them can dry out the eye and not readily improve the eye discomfort you may be experiencing. Antihistamines with diphenhydramine, such as Benadryl™ or ChlorTrimeton™ can dry out the mouth and eyes. Try medications with cetirizine or levocetirizine, fexofenadine, loratadine or desloratadine that won’t cause drowsiness or dry eyes.
Artificial tears can quickly wash irritants from the eyes before histamines are triggered. They can also keep the eyes moist. Use according to directions on the label and no more than six times a day.
Other eye drop options include: corticosteroid eye drops, antihistamine eye drops, or decongestant eye drops. These should be used as directed and under the supervision of your ophthalmologist.
Finally, there are immunotherapy shots that may be prescribed to help with severe seasonal allergies. Ask your ophthalmologist if you are a good candidate for this treatment option.
Discuss your seasonal eye allergies with your ophthalmologist
Ready to nip your allergies in the bud? Call us today for an appointment and come to one of our two Colorado locations for a consultation. Our board-certified ophthalmologists are experienced in helping everything from mild to severe cases of spring allergies so you can enjoy the season free from eye discomfort.