I don’t know about you, but the fall is always one of my worst eye allergy seasons. Weeping eyes, itchy eyes, swollen eyelids, totally irritated, light-sensitive eyes… can you relate? Eye allergies have definitely presented some challenges to me over the years, as I’ve made my living on the Web (or at least on the computer) for many years. And on those days (or weeks) when my eyes were irritated, working for hours on the computer just made things worse.
I’ve tried over-the-counter eye drops like Visine Allergy, Natural Tears, etc. and I’ve tried various prescription eye drops. But turns out it’s not really a good idea to use some of those over the counter formulas for more than a day or two, and the prescription stuff cost a fortune, which is an issue when you don’t have health insurance.
So, I was thrilled a couple of years ago when a new kind of eye drop came on the market. It’s an over-the-counter drug called ketotifen and is an antihistamine and mast cell stablizer, which means it attacks the allergy at the root to stop the reaction. It’s not just a comfort drop. It starts working immediately and the effects last around 12 hours. Sure a little bottle costs $12 to $15, but this drug works At the time it was introduced, it was sold as 2 different brands: Zaditor and Alaway.
But just in the past few months, two more versions have been appearing in stores from the makers of two of the most popular oral allergy medicines: Claritin and Zyrtec. Now, these new eye drop brands don’t actually contain the medicine in Claritin or Zyrtec. They have the same ketotifen found in Zaditor and Alaway. Just two more options to choose from. Looked to me like they’re all priced about the same.
If you suffer from eye allergies and you’re looking for an affordable, easy to obtain solution, I highly encourage you to try out ketotifen, as long as it’s OK with your doctor. I haven’t really had a big problem with eye allergies since I bought my first bottle. As soon as my symptoms start to spiral out of control, I grab my bottle and instill a drop in the offending eye (usually only one at a time bothers me). Within minutes I feel better and that’s it. I’m done, till the next allergy spell hits me.
So, check with your doctor to see if ketotifen might be a good choice for you. You don’t need a prescription to get it, but if you’re taking other medication, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor before you introduce anything new.
Also, here’s a comfort tip for when you don’t get the drops started quickly enough (or if you run out). I’ve found that putting a couple of ice cubes in a damp terrycloth washcloth and placing that on my irritated eye really helps. The cool compress is soothing and the terrycloth can be used to gently rub off any mucus or discharge at the corners of your eye, without leaving fibers behind. Works for me!
Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she’s been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.