Eye Allergies: What You Need To Know
Ah-choo! Spring is in the air…literally. The sneezing and eye rubbing has officially begun in Central Pennsylvania, but are you ready to tackle those allergies this spring?
Causes of Allergies
An allergy is an immune response to foreign proteins, typically biological (coming from another living organism – plants, animals, mold/fungus, etc). The body comes in contact with these particles and cannot determine if there is a risk for harm. Therefore, in an overreacting manner, allergic symptoms are part of the protective mechanism to “keep out” other non-human proteins, which are generally harmless.
Typical seasonal allergies can worsen slowly over time due to sensitization from repeated, over- exposure to the allergen. Seasonal allergies most commonly involve a reaction to tree pollen, ragweed, or grass. On the other hand, perennial (year-round) allergies usually involve dust mites, pet dander, or mold spores.
Eye Allergy Symptoms
- Tearing: usually a clear, watery discharge
- Temporary blurred vision
While everyone’s first instinct is to rub those itchy eyes, DO NOT RUB! This can actually make the itching worse. You could also irritate the eyes more or even scratch your eyes. Instead of rubbing the eyes, try using refrigerator-chilled artificial tears for a cool relief. Keep reading for more ways to kick those allergy symptoms to the curb!
Ways to Prevent Symptoms
The best, and most obvious, way to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid the allergen if possible.
- Be sure to keep the car windows closed when driving, and don’t sleep with the bedroom windows open. It’s best to keep the outdoor allergens out of the car and house.
- Wearing sunglasses outside, especially on a windy day, protects the eyes from pollen or other allergens in the air.
- Avoid doing yard work on windy days during allergy season. Rain helps calm down the pollen count, so try doing outdoor work on a day after it rains.
If it is just not feasible to avoid the allergen, use the following precautions to minimize symptoms.
- Shower after spending time outdoors. This washes the pollen off the skin and is especially important to do before getting into bed.
- Don’t hang pillowcases or bed sheets outside to dry when the pollen count is high. After rubbing your face on a pollen-covered pillowcase all night, you will not be a happy camper in the morning.
If you wear contact lenses, it is best to use daily disposables. Any pollen or allergens that have accumulated on the contact gets thrown out at the end of the day, so there is no need to worry about re-wearing a dirty lens.
Ways to Manage Symptoms
- Cold compresses are the first step in relieving allergy symptoms.
- Artificial tears can help flush allergens from the eyes and soothe mild irritation.
- There are specific eye drops for eye allergies, however, it is best to ask your eye doctor about which drop will work best for you. We suggest you avoid eye drops that contain decongestants to decrease redness. These can make your eyes more dry, red, and irritated with overuse. Oral allergy medications may not always help eye symptoms, but topical eye drops tend to penetrate the eye better.
There are other causes of red eyes that can only be diagnosed using special instrumentation at an eye doctor’s office. If you experience any persistent eye symptoms, we recommend you schedule an appointment with us to get a professional diagnosis, so we make sure it is not a contagious infection or another problem with the eyes.