Eye Allergies 101
April 20, 2020
If it hasn’t hit you already, expect spring allergies to be in full-force soon. We’re all trying to spend a little extra time outside during the quarantine, however, it may prove to be a nuisance for the sniffing, sneezing, itchy-eyed spring allergy sufferer. Keep reading to learn more about those pesky allergies.
Tree pollen, ragweed, and grass are the most common triggers for seasonal allergies; however, you can have an allergic response to anything growing outdoors. Perennial, or year-round, allergies usually involve dust mites, pet dander, or mold spores. When the body comes in contact with these foreign particles, the immune system cannot accurately determine if there is risk for harm. In response, the body overreacts with the typical allergic symptoms for protection from further “attack” of these generally harmless particles.
What to Expect
The most common ocular signs and symptoms include itchiness, redness, burning, tearing (usually a clear, watery discharge), temporary blurred vision, and a gritty sensation. Contact lens wearers may notice the contacts getting dry or, contrarily, have mucus deposits on the lenses. The mucus can lead to blurred vision and contact lens discomfort.
Allergies can affect children too, but they may not be able to articulate what they’re feeling. If you notice your child is chronically rubbing his or her eyes, it is possible that underlying allergies are to blame. Schedule your child for an appointment with us, so we can diagnose the problem and start an appropriate treatment. Eye rubbing in children can also be an indication for other eye conditions that should be professionally addressed.
Hit the Symptoms Before They Happen
The best way to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid the allergen, if possible. Minimizing contact with the offending agent will help decrease the amount of symptoms. Keep windows closed in the car and house. When outside, wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from pollen or other allergens in the air. Consider taking an over-the-counter (OTC) oral antihistamine during your allergy season as a maintenance treatment, especially if you have other non-ocular allergy symptoms. Oral antihistamines don’t always have the best symptom relief for everyone when it comes to the eyes, but it may be worth a try. Starting a topical allergy eye drop prior to the pollen explosion will have a greater effect on symptom relief (see drop details below).
Dealing with the Itch
While it is your first instinct to claw your eyes out, DO NOT RUB! This can make the itchiness worse, and you could accidentally scratch your eyes or cause more irritation.
The first step for mild allergies is to try cold compresses and cold artificial tears. The cold temperature helps decrease the histamine-induced itch and any accompanying swelling.
In moderate cases, an OTC antihistamine/mast cell stabilizer combination eye drop is the treatment of choice. The most popular brands are Zaditor® and Alaway®. Earlier this year, a commonly used prescription strength allergy eye drop became OTC; Pataday® is now OTC in two concentrations (once a day or twice a day dosing). Avoid eye drops that contain decongestants to decrease redness. These can make your eyes more dry, red, and irritated with overuse. In addition to the allergy drop, continue cold compresses and cold artificial tears from the first tier of treatment.
Severe cases may need a mild prescription steroid drop for short-term use. While the OTC drops are relatively safe to use year-round if needed, it is not ideal to use a steroid for an extended length of time.
If you experience any persistent eye symptoms, we recommend you schedule an appointment with us. Our education and specialty instruments allow us to diagnose and treat eye conditions that may be misdiagnosed otherwise. We are happy to see you!