Take it from me… eye allergies aren’t much fun. Mine manifest in crazy ways, with symptoms in only one eye at a time, but not always the same eye, with sudden onset due to no particular trigger exposure, etc. One summer, severe eye allergy symptoms led to a corneal abrasion that I think my eye doctor still believes was due to wearing contact lenses too long. He never did buy my claim that I hadn’t had my contacts in for weeks before the injury.
If you have eye allergies, you probably know what I’m talking about. Your eyes burn, pump out tears and mucus for hours on end, itch and turn red and swollen. Your eyes may also be sensitive to light and your vision blurred. And then for days after those symptoms subside, the skin around your eyes remains irritated, scaly and painful due to the eye secretions it was exposed to. Yuck
Why does this happen? Well, in all likelihood, it’s due to the same triggers that start your sneezing, sniffling, and wheezing if you have nasal allergies and/or asthma. That would be exposure to tree, grass and weed pollen, mold, dust, animal dander or insect droppings, all common allergens.
So what are we to do to stay sane and productive in the face of these annoying eye allergies?
Glad you asked… Here are my 5 top ways to deal with eye allergies:
- Avoid eye allergies by reducing your exposure to allergens. This means changing your environment, so that you come into contact with your allergy triggers less. For instance, stay indoors behind air conditioning when pollen counts are high, keep the dog and cat out of the bedroom, and get rid of carpeting and upholstered furniture that harbors dust mites. Prevention is always the best measure for dealing with any kind of allergies.
- Take your antihistamine. These days, you have quite a few choices. Oral antihistamines are probably the most frequent choice, such as Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra. Antihistamine nasal sprays may also provide some relief for eye allergy symptoms. This is another preventive measure.
- Use allergy eye drops as needed. I’m referring to either prescription eye drops like Patanol or Lotemax or the newer over-the-counter topical antihistamine eye drops sold as Alaway or Zaditor. The OTC variety tend to be cheaper and I’ve found them to be very effective. A word of caution, though: Avoid the decongestant type eye drops such as Visine, etc. They can actually make your eye allergy symptoms worse.
- Employ comfort measures. Even if you do all of the above, you may not be able to control your eye allergy symptoms completely. Artificial tears type eye drops can be soothing and help keep your eye membranes moist. Cold compresses can also help with the discomfort and the swelling. Dim the lights indoors, wear sunglasses and a hat outdoors to shade your eyes, and reduce your computer time.
- Leave your eyes alone. When your eyes are irritated, treat them with care. Switch from contacts to eyeglasses for a day or two. Wash your eyes only with warm water; no soap or other cleansing solutions. Avoid wearing makeup. And do your best to avoid rubbing, scratching or otherwise touching your eyes.
If you use the tips above to deal with eye allergies, I guarantee you that you will have a more comfortable and productive future!
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.