How To Get Relief From Itchy, Watery Eyes
Eye allergies — red, itchy, watery eyes that are bothered by the same irritants that cause sneezing and a runny nose among seasonal allergy sufferers — are very common.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that 50 million people in the United States have seasonal allergies, and its prevalence is increasing — affecting up to 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children. In addition to having symptoms of sneezing, congestion and a runny nose, most of these allergy sufferers also experience itchy eyes, watery eyes, red eyes and swollen eyelids.
And in some cases, eye allergies can play a role in conjunctivitis (pink eye) and other eye infections.
If you think you have eye allergies, here are a few things you should know — including helpful tips on how to get relief from your red, itchy, watery eyes.
What Causes Eye Allergies
Normally harmless substances that cause problems for individuals who are predisposed to allergic reactions are called allergens. The most common airborne allergens that cause eye allergies are pollen, mold, dust and pet dander.
Eye allergies also can be caused by reactions to certain cosmetics or eye drops, including artificial tears used for treating dry eyes that contain preservatives.
Food allergies and allergic reactions to bee stings or other insect bites typically do not affect the eyes as severely as airborne allergens do.
Eye Allergy Relief
To get relief from your eye allergies and itchy, watery eyes, you can take a few approaches:
Avoiding allergens. As the old saying goes: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." (By the way, Benjamin Franklin said that — the same guy who invented bifocals!) The best approach to controlling your eye allergy symptoms is to do everything you can to limit your exposure to common allergens you are sensitive to.
For example, on days when the pollen count is high, stay indoors as much as possible, with the air conditioner running to filter the air. Use high quality furnace filters that can trap common allergens and replace the filters frequently. When you do go outdoors during allergy season, wear wraparound sunglasses to help shield your eyes from pollen, ragweed, etc., and drive with your windows closed.
Removing your contacts. Because the surface of contact lenses can attract and accumulate airborne allergens, consider wearing only eyeglasses during allergy season. Or consider switching to daily disposable contacts that you discard after a single use to avoid the buildup of allergens and other debris on your lenses.
Over-the counter eye drops. Because eye allergies are so common, there are a number of brands of non-prescription eye drops available that are formulated to relieve itchiness, redness and watery eyes caused by allergies.
If your eye allergy symptoms are relatively mild, over-the-counter eye drops for allergy relief may work very well for you and may be less expensive than prescription eye drops or other medication. Ask your eye doctor to recommend a brand to try.
8 Tips For Eye Allergy Sufferers
- Get an early start. See your eye doctor before allergy season begins to learn how to reduce your sensitivity to allergens.
- Try to avoid or limit your exposure to the primary causes of your eye allergies. In the spring and summer, pollen from trees and grasses are the usual suspects. Ragweed pollen is the biggest culprit in late summer and fall. Mold, dust mites and pet dander are common indoor allergens during winter.
- Protect your eyes from airborne allergens outdoors by wearing wraparound-style sunglasses.
- Don't rub your eyes if they itch! Eye rubbing releases more histamine and makes your allergy symptoms worse.
- Use plenty of artificial tears to wash airborne allergens from your eyes. Ask your eye doctor which brands are best for you.
- Cut down your contact lens wear or switch to daily disposable lenses to reduce the buildup of allergens on your lenses.
- Shower before bedtime and gently clean your eyelids to remove any pollen that could cause irritation while you sleep.
- Consider purchasing an air purifier for your home, and purchase an allergen-trapping filter for your heating/cooling system.
Prescription medications. If your allergy symptoms are relatively severe or over-the-counter eye drops are ineffective at providing relief, you may need to see your eye doctor to prescribe a stronger medication.