What are eye allergies?
An eye allergy is a allergic reaction to an allergic substance on the surface of the eye. With an eye allergy, you will have:
- itchy eyes (you may frequently rub them)
- increased tearing
- red or pink eyes (without pus)
- mild swelling of the eyelids.
What is the cause?
Eye allergies that occur during the same season each year are caused by pollens. Pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds are invisible and travel in the air. Allergies that are not seasonal may be caused by pets (for example, cats), feathers, perfumes, eye makeup, or another substance. The things that cause allergies are called allergens.
How long will it last?
Most eye allergies due to a pollen last 4 to 6 weeks, which is the length of most pollen seasons. If the allergic substance can be identified (for example, a cat) AND avoided, the symptoms will not return.
How can I take care of myself?
- Remove pollen
First wash the pollen off your face. Then use a clean washcloth and cool water to clean off your eyelids. (Tears will wash the pollen out of the eyes.) This rinse of the eyelids may need to be repeated every time you come in on a windy day. Pollen also collects in the hair and on exposed body surfaces. This pollen can easily be reintroduced into your eyes. Therefore, take a shower and shampoo every night before bedtime. Try not to touch your eyes unless your hands have been washed recently.
Usually, your eyes will feel much better after the pollen is washed out and a cold compress (for example, a cold, wet washcloth) is applied. If they are still itchy or bloodshot, you may need s antihistamine eyedrops that you can buy without a prescription. Zaditor or Alaway are the most effective OTC antihistamine eyedrops. Use 1 drop every 12 hours throughout the pollen season.
- Oral antihistamine
If these measures aren’t effective, you probably also have hay fever (that is, allergic symptoms of the nose) and need an oral antihistamine prescribed. The following antihistamines are OTC: Benadryl and chlorpheniramine work for 8 hours. Zyrtec and Claritin work for 24 hours. Take the correct dosage as listed on the product. They need to be taken on a daily basis until pollen season is over. This will control both the nose and eye symptoms.
How can eye allergies be prevented?
Some suggestions to reduce exposure to allergens are:
- Keep your bedroom windows shut and use central air conditioning during spring, summer, and fall pollen seasons. If a room air conditioner is used, recirculate the indoor air rather than pulling outside air indoors. Air purifiers can be helpful if filters are kept clean. HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters are best. Wash or change air filters once a month.
- Shower, shampoo, and change clothes right after working or playing outside during allergy season.
- Avoid being outdoors when the lawn is being mowed.
- Wash hands immediately after any contact with a pet.
- Symptoms depend on how high the pollen count is that day. You can get your daily pollen count from http://www.pollen.com. Just type in your zip code.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call during office hours if:
- This treatment and an antihistamine do not relieve most of your symptoms in 2 or 3 days.
- You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick”, American Academy of Pediatrics Books. Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-06-07
Last reviewed: 2011-06-06 This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. Pediatric Advisor 2011.4 Index
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