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Eye allergy season is here!
Many patients are coming into my optometry practice with itchy, puffy eyes. Does this sound like you? You might be tempted to grab the first eye drops you see off the shelf, but that may not be a good idea. Or you might be tempted to rub your eyes like crazy, and that is definitely not a good idea! Read this article first before heading to the drugstore!
Before we get into some remedies for eye allergy relief, let’s talk about the symptoms and signs first.
Signs and Symptoms of Eye Allergies
These can include:
- Itchy eyes
- Red eyes
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eyes
- Puffy eyelids
- Sensitivity to light
- Dry eye (many oral allergy medications can cause dry eye too)
- Mucous discharge (usually in more severe cases)
If you are noticing these symptoms, you may have eye allergies! You may also have other allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, sinus congestion, sneezing, etc. Consult your physician if you’re not sure if you have allergies, a cold, or something else!
Please note that many other eye conditions can mimic eye allergies, so please see your eye doctor
Tips for Eye Allergy Relief
Placing a damp, cool washcloth over your closed eyes can help reduce puffy eyelids, eye swelling, and relieve itching. Try doing this about 10 minutes, twice a day. You can also use clean tea bags soaked in cool water or cucumber slices. Obviously, make sure everything is clean. This is an easy and cheap remedy for eye allergy relief!
If you prefer, you can also use a gel eye mask. Just store it in the fridge and pop it on for 10 minutes. This one is nice because it has eye holes so you can still see through the mask!
I often recommend patients try artificial tears before resorting to medications. Most people will find some relief using artificial tears because the drops can help wash allergens off the surface of the eyes.
Also, they provide some relief from dry eye. Taking allergy medications such as Benadryl can actually dry your eyes out, making you even itchier!
I personally use and recommend preservative-free artificial tears because they are less irritating to your eyes when you are already suffering from eye allergies. Here are some of my favorite ones:
OTC allergy eye drops
There are other OTC allergy eye drops available, but they usually combine an antihistamine with a redness relieving medication. These drops include Opcon-A and Naphcon-A. The antihistamine is effective, but there are some drawbacks to these particular allergy eye drops.
While okay to use on occasion, the anti-redness medication does constrict the blood vessels on your eye. Long term use may cause “rebound redness”. Basically, this means your eyes can become redder than before you started using the drops!
That’s why I recommend Zaditor and Alaway over the other two drops. If you do want something for redness relief, check out my review on Lumify eye drops. It’s much safer and very effective!
If you still don’t find relief, consult your eye doctor for prescription allergy eye medications.
Discontinue contact lens wear
If you wear contact lenses regularly, know that your contacts may be trapping more allergens in your eyes! The best thing to do is to stop wearing your contact lenses and use glasses until your eye allergies improve.
Not only can allergens accumulate on your contact lenses (even if you are diligent about cleaning them), but wearing your lenses makes it harder for your eyes to flush out allergens that are irritating your eyes.
If you must wear contacts, consider asking your eye doctor to switch you to a daily disposable contact lens. It’s cleaner and more comfortable. My personal favorite are the Dailies Total 1 daily disposable contact lenses. They are very comfortable, have a “cushion” of water on the surface, and maintain high oxygen flow to the eyes.
Use a nasal sinus rinse
I know we’ve been talking about eyes, so you might be wondering why I’m telling you about a nasal sinus rinse. I’ll explain real quick. We have several sinus cavities in our face located close to and around our eyes. These sinuses can become inflamed from allergies.
When this inflammation happens, we can feel pressure and pain around our eyes and forehead. We may even see swelling on our eyelids.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, a nasal sinus rinse is a great way to get some relief. If you’ve never used a sinus rinse before, be sure to read the instructions carefully before you start. It feels a little weird squirting saline up your nose the first time, but you get used to it quick!
I like to use this when I get a sinus headache, and I find it really helps to relieve my nasal congestion and the ache around my eyes.
It’s all natural and affordable as well. Give it a try, your eyes and nose will thank you!
Quick note: Sinusitis can also be caused by an infection. If you are not sure if you have an allergy or infection, please consult your doctor!
At-Home Eye Allergy Relief Is Possible
I hope you found these tips for eye allergy relief helpful. It’s no fun suffering from seasonal allergies. Typically I don’t really get allergies, but this year I have an itchy throat and stuffy nose that just won’t go away!
One last note about eye allergy remedies- I see a lot of articles on natural treatments such as using essential oils in your eyes. I would strongly caution against using anything that is not specifically formulated and safe for using in your eyes. If in doubt about what you should use, please consult your eye doctor or physician!
I wish you good health this allergy season!