For those of us with allergies, the annual return to warmer weather doesn’t always put a spring in our step. Allergies affect over 19 million Americans, so this is no small problem. First, let’s talk about what allergies are, and specifically when they affect the eyes. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, eye allergies are a reaction to indoor and outdoor irritants that get into your eyes. Examples of these are pollen, mold spores, dust mites, and pet dander.
Let’s look at some fast facts about eye allergies, including how to identify other eye conditions that might need a different approach. And finally, we’ll discuss how eye allergy treatments can help lessen symptoms and get relief from the discomfort of allergies, no matter the season.
Is It Allergies or Pink Eye?
If your eyes suddenly become irritated, you might wonder if you have pink eye, which is a viral or bacterial infection of the eye tissue. Pink eye has some of the same symptoms as allergies (eye itching and red eyes), but often includes a thick discharge not common with allergies from external irritants. Pink eye also usually starts in one eye before spreading to the other eye a day or two later—eye allergies almost always affect both eyes right away. Pink eye spreads easily from person to person, but it can be diagnosed and treated: Check with your eye doctor.
Do Allergies Cause Issues With Vision? How About Puffy and Swollen Eyes?
Eye allergy symptoms could include sensitivities that affect vision, as well as irritation, headaches, and itchiness, according to WebMD.4 Puffy, swollen eyes are also a symptom related to allergies. None of these symptoms are fun to deal with in daily life. Keep reading to learn some tips to help prevent and help relieve your eye allergies.
Eye Drops and Allergies: Good Idea?
When you want eye allergy relief, you might first reach for eye drops. Some eye drop formulas are made for allergies and can contain extra ingredients to help with irritation. Other eye drops help by providing extra lubrication for the eye, often relieving eye itching. Because there are so many kinds, you might want to talk to your eye doctor to see which they recommend for you. For additional relief when your eyes just feel awful, holding a moist cold washcloth over closed eyes can help you feel better. This only relieves some discomfort, rather than removing the allergen.
Beyond Symptom Relief: Strategies to Minimize Eye Allergies
Luckily, there are strategies you can try to help avoid or minimize eye allergy irritation in the first place.
- Start early. If you take allergy medicine, anticipate allergy season and have medications ready. You might be able to stay ahead of some allergy symptoms if you take your meds when you anticipate exposure but before your body has a chance to react to incoming allergens.
- Clean is keen. Frequent cleaning of your household surfaces (wet cleaning methods are preferred rather than sweeping or dusting) and keeping bed sheets and clothes worn outside washed can cut down your exposure to allergens significantly.
- Wear a mask. On days you know you will be exposed to allergens, wearing a surgical mask, especially around plants or while gardening, can help to limit expsure and possibly prevent symptoms. If it is a high-pollen or mold day, keeping the windows closed in your house can help as well.
- Eye protection. Large glasses or sunglasses can help keep irritants out of your eyes. Make sure your contact lenses are properly cleaned, as well. Every little bit that helps to keep particles out of your eyes will make a difference.
- Hydration and good nutrition. These strategies help keep your body in good overall health, which can help your body be ready for any health challenge—including allergies.
Eye Pain and Allergies: When Should You Seek Help?
When your eye irritation goes beyond itching and general discomfort, it’s time to seek expert help. If allergy symptoms are prolonged or worsen into pain, consult with your eye doctor to determine the best course of action.
This article was reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Wademan. Dr. Wademan is the owner of Bidwell Optometry in Folsom, CA. She shares regular information around eye health on her popular Instagram page.
Information received through VSP Vision Care's social media channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
 CDC. National Center for Health Statistics. FastStats: Allergies and Hay Fever. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/allergies.htm (Retrieved February 23, 2021).
 Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Eye Allergies (Allergic Conjunctivitis). https://www.aafa.org/eye-allergy-conjunctivitis/ (Retrieved February 23, 2021).
 Mayo Clinic. Pink eye (conjunctivitis). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pink-eye/symptoms-causes/syc-20376355 (Retrieved February 23, 2021).
 WebMD.com. Understanding Eye Allergies. https://www.webmd.com/allergies/understanding-eye-allergies (Retrieved April 5, 2021).
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