If you experience itchy, red, swollen teary or painful eyes at this time of year, then you might be among the millions of Americans who have seasonal eye allergies. Eye allergies occur when the membrane that covers your eyes becomes irritated by something in your environment such as tree or grass pollen. Other people have indoor allergies that affect their eyes with irritants such as pet dander and mold. Although eye allergies are an uncomfortable nuisance, they do not pose a serious health risk, and the worse symptom you might suffer would be temporary blurriness of vision.
Here are some tips about what to do and what to avoid to cope with eye allergies:
What TO DO:
- Always wear glasses, preferably sunglasses for UV protection, during the day if you go outside to keep the pollen from reaching your eyes
- Use a wet mop or dust cloth to clean as a dry cleaning cloth can actually spread more allergens into the air
- Keep the humidity in your home under 50% to avoid mold growth
- Wash your hands after contact with your pets
- Use a sterile saline wash to calm down your eye irritation
What NOT TO DO:
- Do not use window fans if you have seasonal allergies. You are drawing pollen into your home
- Do not rub your eyes. As tempting as this is, it could further irritate your eyes
- Do not go outside during the mid-morning and early evening when the pollen count is at its highest
- Do not open windows when driving and when at home. Use air conditioning instead if you have it
There are some additional steps that you can discuss with your doctor. Non-drowsy antihistamines or decongestants may be needed. Allergy shots, or immunotherapy has helped many. You can also try eye drops that contain ketotefin. Two such products are Alaway® and Zaditor®, both of which are available over the counter. Some people keep their eye drops in the refrigerator, for extra relief and reduction of swelling. Lastly, old fashioned cold compresses can reduce swelling and irritation.