It seems like every season is allergy season. In the spring, it’s the tree and flower pollen. Summer adds grass pollen. In the fall, it’s weed pollen. People who have allergies have symptoms such as sneezing, sniffling, and nasal congestion, but allergies can affect the eyes, too. They can make your eyes red, itchy, burning, and watery, and cause swollen eyelids.
Did you know that pollen is the biggest trigger of spring allergies? When your body comes in contact with pollen, your immune system mistakenly sees it as a harmful substance. In an attempt to protect your body, it starts a chain reaction that prompts some of the body’s cells to release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream. And it’s the histamine that leads to the itchy eyes, watery eyes, red eyes, and swollen eyelids (also known as allergic conjunctivitis) that leave us searching for relief.
Just because your eyes aren’t happy with the pollen in the air, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the new season.
Below are tips and tricks for protecting your eyes from dreaded spring allergies.
- Get an early start. See your eye doctor before allergy season begins to learn how to reduce your sensitivity to allergens.
- Always wash hands and face after coming in from outdoors to remove pollen. Change your clothes immediately after outdoor activities, and have your children change their clothes when they come in from playing outside.
- 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 build-up 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.
- Wear sunglasses outside to protect the surface of your eyes from direct contact with allergens. Most sunglasses have larger lenses than everyday eyeglasses and, therefore, provide more protection.
If your symptoms do not improve, or they seem to get worse, oral antihistamines or other systemic allergy medication may also help contain your allergies. See your primary care doctor to find out if allergy medication is right for you.