for general inquiries or appointments 724.287.5739

Effective Ways to Control Your Eye Allergy Symptoms

Itchy, watery eyes. For millions of Americans, it’s a seasonal annoyance (Spring is Coming). And for those less fortunate, it’s a year-round problem that can have a serious impact on your quality of life. But don’t give up hope. There are many ways to alleviate your symptoms and protect your eye health.

What Causes Eye Allergies

The scientific term for ocular (eye) allergies is allergic conjunctivitis — inflammation of the eye caused by an allergic reaction to substances like grass, pollen and mold spores (allergens). When the antibodies in your eyes come into contact with allergens, your body’s immune system responds by releasing histamine and other substances or chemicals. This can cause itchiness, clear fluid discharge, redness, swelling and a burning sensation, and even sneezing, sniffling or a stuffy nose which most often associated with nasal allergies.

How to Control Your Eye Allergy Symptoms

Prevention: Know Your Triggers

It can be difficult to pinpoint, but if you can identify which allergens and other environmental factors are causing your symptoms to flare up, the easier it is to prevent your body from reacting in the first place.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) says the first step to manage your eye allergies is to avoid the allergens that trigger your symptoms. And we agree.

The most common triggers include:

  • Outdoor allergens, such as pollens from grass, trees and weeds
  • Indoor allergens, such as pet dander, dust mites and mold
  • Irritants such as cigarette smoke, perfume and diesel exhaust

Follow Recommended Behaviors to Avoid Triggers

The following are some suggested behaviors that can significantly reduce the frequency and duration of your eye allergy symptoms:

  • Keep your windows closed in high pollen periods
  • Clean and vacuum your home often to minimize dust
  • Use dust mite-proof covers in your bedroom
  • Keep the humidity in your home low — below 50% — to limit exposure to mold
  • Wear sunglasses outdoors to prevent allergens from entering your eyes
  • Wash your hands frequently

Use Non-Prescription Medication for Short-Term Relief

Heading to the pharmacy for over-the-counter, non-prescription medication is your second line of defense.

Your options include:

  • Tear substitutes (“artificial tears”) can temporarily wash away allergens and moisten eyes, and can be used as often as needed. Store them in the refrigerator for extra soothing relief.
  • Decongestant eye drops reduce redness by narrowing the blood vessels in the eye. In addition to the decongestant, some brands also include antihistamine for additional relief from itching. These drops should be used frequently (four to six times a day), but for no more than two to three days in duration. Similar to decongestant nasal sprays, prolonged use can result in a “rebound effect” where your symptoms become worse than they were before.
  • Oral antihistamines can be mildly effective in relieving itchy eyes associated with allergies, however, there are potential side effects. Depending on the version of antihistamine and the brand, you may experience unwanted symptoms such as dry eyes, sleepiness or excitability, and dizziness.

If you’re unsure about any of these non-prescription medication options to control your eye allergy symptoms, we recommend checking with your pharmacist or giving us a call.

Get Prescription Medication for Severe Symptoms

If you’ve tried making changes to your home and lifestyle to prevent allergens from entering your eyes, and non-prescription medication just isn’t doing the trick, please get in touch with us at Dittman Eyecare. We can complete an assessment to determine if prescription medication can help alleviate your symptoms or prevent the onset of an allergic reaction.

Your options include:

  • Prescription eye drops are available to you by prescription is several forms, depending on your symptoms, for both immediate and longer term relief. Eye drop options include antihistamine, mast cell stabilizer, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroid. An eyecare professional can determine what’s right for you.
  • Prescription oral antihistamines (non-sedating) can be mildly effective in relieving itchy eyes associated with allergies. Although these medications don’t result in drowsiness like over-the-counter antihistamines, they can cause dry eyes and potentially worsen your existing eye allergy symptoms.
  • Immunotherapy (“allergy shots”) helps to improve your tolerance to a particular substance that causes an allergic reaction. This is accomplished by injecting small amounts of allergens and gradually increasing them over time. It could take up to several months to get relief from your eye allergy symptoms.  

Getting a Proper Diagnosis

Sometimes it’s more than just itchy, watery eyes from seasonal or perennial eye allergies. Sometimes it’s a more serious form of allergic conjunctivitis or even an eye disease, but the symptoms are similar so how can you tell? That’s why an accurate diagnosis is imperative for your continued eye health.

If your symptoms persist or over-the-counter remedies are not bringing you relief, call Dittman Eyecare for help. Our optometrist professionals can closely examine your eyes, review your medical history and symptoms to determine which allergens are triggering reactions, and help you find the correct course of action.

Additionally, we provide treatment for red eye/pink eye associated with allergies, and also offer a dry eye clinic that may be able to provide you with extra relief. May you be well and allergy-symptom free!

chat-icon  | Dittman Eyecare