For those with allergies, spring is not only the season of warm rays of sunshine and blossoming trees, but also of red and itchy eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose. If you’re among the more than 50 million Americans who experience allergies, here are some tips to get some relief.
What are the most common allergy symptoms?
- Red, irritated eyes
- Itchy eyes and eyelids
- Watery, teary, or runny eyes
- Swollen eyes and/ or eyelids
- Sore, painful, or burning feeling in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Usually, you’ll also have other allergy symptoms, such as a stuffy, runny nose, and sneezing
What causes allergies?
There are two types of eye allergies: seasonal, which are more common, and perennial. Seasonal allergies happen at certain times of the year, mostly early spring through summer and into autumn, while perennial allergies happen year-round.
The most common triggers are:
- Outdoor allergens, such as pollens from grass, trees, and weeds
- Indoor allergens, such as pet dander, dust mites, feathers (in bedding), and mold
- Irritants, such as cigarette smoke, perfume, cosmetics, chlorine, and diesel exhaust
Eye allergies are also known as allergic conjunctivitis and are caused by the body’s natural defense system. When you have allergies, your body reacts to things that aren’t really harmful and releases histamine, a chemical that causes swelling and inflammation. The blood vessels in your eyes then swell and your eyes get red, teary, itchy, and bothersome.
Most times, it’s easy to tell what causes your allergy—note if symptoms strike when you go outside on a windy, high-pollen-count day, or rather when a pet climbs onto your lap. However, if your trigger isn’t clear, a doctor can give you a test to find out.
How to get relief for your allergy symptoms?
Once you’ve found out your triggers, create an actionable plan to avoid them as best as you can. If you have a seasonal allergy, when winter comes to an end, do a thorough spring cleaning at home to minimize your exposure to allergens.
Stay away from pollen
In spring and summer, stay indoors when pollen counts are highest, usually in mid-morning and early evening when winds are most active—you can monitor this as part of your daily routine. Close the windows and run the air conditioner to filter the air (window fans can draw in pollen and mold spores). When you go out, wear eyeglasses or big sunglasses to block pollen from your eyes.
Manage dust mites
When it comes to indoor allergies, dust mites are one of the most common triggers. Use mite-proof covers on your mattress, comforter, and pillows to reduce exposure to substances that can provoke conjunctivitis. Wash bedding in warm water to kill mites. Vacuum frequently, wet mop hard floors rather than sweeping to remove small particles and if you can, minimize the amount of upholstered furniture in your home. Invest in air cleaners that remove dust, pollen, and other small particles from indoor air.
Rinse with saline
Once you get allergy symptoms, they can cause changes in tear production, and you may experience eye dryness or excess tears. In some cases, your eyes may water frequently but still feel dry due to allergens. This irritation mostly happens when airborne allergens come into contact with the surface of your eyeball. Rinsing with preservative-free saline water can help you get relief.
Use eye drops
Many of the eye drops you can buy over the counter from the pharmacy contain active ingredients that are the same as those that treat nasal allergies. Different active ingredients treat different aspects of allergies. Artificial tears and tear substitutes used for dry eyes keep eyes lubricated and help rinse away allergens. Decongestant drops minimize the appearance of blood vessels that cause red eyes. Some kinds of eye drops may not be appropriate for some individuals, so always discuss any you intend to use with your doctor first.
Try cold compress
If you notice redness, tenderness, and swelling in the eye area when suffering from allergies, cold therapy can provide immediate soothing relief. Use a soft cloth or compress designed for use in the eye area. Soak the compress in cool water, wring it out, and place over the eyes. If your symptoms are more intense, you can put the damp cloth in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
Don’t rub your eyes
Lastly, no matter how much they itch, try not to rub your eyes at all as it will only make the irritation worse. Wash your hands and try a cold compress instead.
For more tips and advice on eye health, browse our blog.
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