Spring is around the corner and warmer temperatures and budding trees can trigger seasonal allergies for many people. Itchy watery eyes are also a sign of pink eye or bacterial conjunctivitis. Eye allergies are referred to as allergic conjunctivitis and may cause similar symptoms but aren’t contagious but can be just as irritating. How do you know the difference, and what can you do for seasonal eye allergy relief? We’re glad you asked.
What causes eye allergies?
When your immune system reacts to a substance that is harmless but interprets as a threat it may overreact and release histamine to fight off the allergen. This causes allergic type reactions that may include a runny or stuffy nose, itchy watery eyes, or a rash. When an allergen comes in contact with your eye the same response occurs.
How do I know if it’s pink eye or allergies?
Bacterial conjunctivitis is caused by an infection. It doesn’t tend to go away without treatment whereas allergic conjunctivitis can ease when exposure to the allergen lessens. Though symptoms are similar, pink eye tends to be more extreme with pus, discharge and the feeling of a foreign object in the eye. If your eye irritation occurs with the changing of the seasons it is more likely to be allergy related. If in doubt, it’s best to check with your doctor.
What are common eye allergy triggers?
Allergies may be seasonal and caused by pollen from trees, grasses, or ragweed, or may be attributed to airborne allergens such as mold, dust, smoke, perfumes or contact with pet dander. Insect stings and food allergies may also trigger a reaction as well as eye allergies.
Symptoms of eye allergies include:
- Red, swollen or itchy eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Burning or tearing
Did you know?
Some people are allergic to the preservative used in certain over the counter eye drops. It’s important to check with your eye doctor before using drops and let them know if any irritation occurs.
My eyes are so itchy, what can I do?
If you suffer from eye allergies, you know there’s nothing worse. Try to avoid rubbing them. Even though it’s a natural reaction to relieve itchiness, rubbing your eyes can scratch the retina.
Here are some things you can to do to get relief from irritated, itchy eyes:
- A cold compress – A cold cloth may soothe itchy eyes and cold tea bags may help reduce swelling.
- Eye drops – Try preservative free OTC drops such as artificial tears to wash out allergens or drops for allergies with antihistamines.
- Allergy medication – For relief of itchy, watery eyes caused by seasonal allergies, you may want to try taking OTC antihistamines.
- Allergy shots – If your allergies are severe you can inquire about immunotherapy which gives you small doses of allergens to build up your tolerance or immunity.
How to avoid or reduce seasonal eye allergies:
- Netflix and chill indoors – Reduce time outside during high pollen count days.
- Protect your peepers – Wear sunglasses or protective eyewear to help prevent pollen from going in the eyes.
- Flush it out – Try an eye rinse with sterile warm water to rinse your eyes after being outside or use artificial tears.
- Help clear the air- Use hepa-filters and a dehumidifier to help prevent mold and clean the air in your home.
- Keep them closed – The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends using air conditioning and keeping windows closed in the home and while driving on high pollen count days.
- Wear glasses or use disposable contacts to prevent build-up of allergens on contact lenses.
When should I see the eye doctor?
You should visit your optometrist if you don’t know what’s causing your itchy, watery, burning eye symptoms. If you’ve had seasonal allergies and symptoms occur during high pollen days you can probably attribute it to eye allergies. Still, it’s best to have an eye exam if you’re unsure to rule out eye infections or other causes, and get recommendations for care. Try to use some of these tips to reduce allergens and spring will be over in the blink of an eye.