With spring comes allergens like pollen, spores and grasses that can cause severe reactions upon entering the body. Eye allergies in particular can be irritating, impair vision and cause lasting damage at worst. The most common type of eye allergy is Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAC), which affects individuals only during certain seasons. When an allergen comes into contact with your eye, your immune system sometimes overreacts, releasing histamines and other chemicals to fight the allergen. This can result in tiny blood vessels bursting, leaving eyes itchy, watery and red. Symptoms of eye allergies can include itching, red eyes, burning, watery eyes, and dark circles under the eyes (known as an “allergic shiner”). Triggers will vary from person to person, but are frequently caused by specific pollens or spores released from grasses, trees and weeds. The number one way to treat eye allergies is to avoid the allergens. Symptoms can be managed with over-the-counter products, but you should seek professional medical advice if you have severe or prolonged symptoms.
Check the Pollen Counts
During allergy seasons, many news and weather stations will broadcast the pollen count and severity, even mentioning what specific pollens are present on any given day. Avoid going outside when pollen counts are high, noting that they typically peak during mid morning and early evening. Avoid windy days as well, which stir up and cause more pollens to enter the air. Staying inside as much as possible during allergy season can help you avoid (or at least minimize) itchy, red, watery eyes.
Not only do sunglasses protect retinas from harmful ultraviolet radiation, they also serve as a great barrier between your eyes and airborne allergens. Large, wrap-around sunglasses will provide the most protection, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors while experiencing lessened eye allergy symptoms.
Wash Your Hands Often
Washing your hands will remove the vast majority of lingering pollens or other allergens that have adhered to your skin, especially if you spend most of your time outdoors. We absentmindedly touch our face and eyes frequently, and this will easily transfer allergens, causing your eye allergies to flare up.
Close the Windows
While it may be tempting to open the windows to let fresh air in, you will also invite millions of microscopic allergens into your home, and the itchy, red eyes will soon follow. Running your air conditioner and changing your air filter regularly will help keep the air in your home fresh and clean, sparing your eyes from allergic distress. This also applies to the car; resist the temptation to roll down the windows or put your convertible’s top down during allergy season…your eyes will thank you.
Control Your Symptoms
To treat the eye allergy symptoms you already have, there are a variety of non-perscription, over-the-counter solutions. A cool compress can sooth irritated, itchy eyes. Saline eye drops and lubricating drops can help soothe stinging and itchy eyes and can help flush out allergens. Decongestant eye drops made specifically for allergies can provide significant symptom relief but may sting at first; these should not be used for more than a few consecutive days or they can aggravate and worsen your symptoms. Oral antihistamines can calm down your body’s reaction to allergens, which can reduce your symptoms, but may dry eyes out. By being conscientious about your eye allergies and carefully treating the symptoms, you can significantly lessen or even eliminate symptoms and enjoy the spring again.