For some of us, spring and summer aren’t the “fun in the sun” seasons. Instead, they are the time of year when we are constantly grabbing tissues for our watering eyes even as we try not to rub the itch away. Hay fever, allergic rhinitis––whatever you call it–the earliest symptoms of an allergy attack are often when our eyes start to redden, water, and itch. Of course, outdoor allergens aren’t the only culprit. Inside our homes the same symptoms can be triggered by things like pet dander or dust. Although eye drops can provide quick relief, you shouldn’t grab the first bottle you find. There are specific formulas designed for specific issues. Some can even interfere with medications. Here’s some information all about allergy eye drops.
Most people enjoy a casual stroll outside, even during days with high pollen counts. Instead of loving the great outdoors, people with allergies are instead battling an immune system overreaction. That’s when your body behaves as if pollen is a health-threatening virus. It’s not radically different from how you get a cough or runny nose when you’re fighting a cold. You’re most likely triggered by multiple allergens––some that are inside, some that are out. Instead of grabbing a box of eyedrops, start by improving your household environment. Get a vacuum that uses a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. If your allergies are bad, you may want to consider hiring a housekeeper to take care of the cleaning. Keep your AC on during days when the pollen count is high (your favorite weather app likely includes this information for your region). Depending on where you live, you may have to deal with the grass pollen that blooms in springtime or ragweed that starts shedding pollen in late summer. You should use high-efficiency filters in your home AC units and keep your windows shut at night and in the early morning when pollen counts are highest. If you can, avoid going outside during those times as well.
If you have allergy medication, it can help to take it before symptoms appear. If you do experience itchy eyes, start by wrapping ice in a towel or soaking a washcloth in cool water. Lie down and stretch it across your eyes. Many people find that doing this relieves their symptoms fairly quickly. You might want to consider washing your face or taking a shower. Keep your outdoor clothes separate from your indoor ones and do your laundry regularly.
When you experience dry, itchy eyes, eye drops designed to treat the condition work by providing needed lubrication. As soon as you squeeze a few drops into your eyes, they begin to interact with your tears. You likely close your eyes immediately afterward––which is a good thing because the involuntary action spreads the drops around. Blinking will have the same effect. One popular ingredient for dry eyes that itch are humectants like glycol that act by attracting and binding your body’s own water near the surface or your eyes. Humectants are often the active ingredient in lotions for your skin, so you should select eye drops that contain them as moisturizers for your eyes.
Several antihistamine and anti allergy eye drops are available over the counter as well, and can be used if there is no symptom relief with lubricating drops. Many experts consider these to be the most effective over the counter treatment for allergic conjunctivitis.
No matter which drops you purchase, proper use is key. Studies suggest that many people don’t wash their hands prior to using the drops or apply them improperly. Never touch the bottle to your eye. Your best bet is to lie down, pull your lower eyelid away from your eye (creating a pouch), and drop the drops in. Keep your eyes closed as much as possible (although some involuntary movement is inevitable). Try not to move for three minutes. If you use multiple drops, wait at least ten minutes between applications.
If you have an overactive thyroid, high blood pressure, diabetes, or acute angle glaucoma, you should speak with your doctor before using any type of eye drops. You should also get in touch with your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing eye pain, double vision, light sensitivity, or any indication that your eyes have been damaged. Finally, if your eye allergy symptoms are not improving despite at-home treatment, it is very important to seek medical care.
John Bankston is a published author of over 150 nonfiction books for children and young adults including biographies of Jonas Salk, Gerhard Domak, and Frederick Banting.