Spring is finally here, but with warmer weather, flowers, and budding trees, come those dreaded seasonal allergies.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 50 million people in the United States have seasonal allergies, and its prevalence is increasing—affecting up to 30% of adults and up to 40% of children. In addition to having symptoms of sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose, most of allergy sufferers also experience itchy, watery, red eyesas well as swollen eyelids. Some may also experience blurred vision as well or feel as if they have something floating in their eye. So what can you do to both prevent and treat your symptoms? Here are a few ideas to help soothe your eye irritations this allergy season.
The first step to relieve your symptoms is an evaluation with your eye doctor to determine whether it is indeed allergy related. It’s vital to rule out other eye-related problems such as an infection (particularly pink eye as it tends to pop up during the spring season), inflammation, or dry eye syndrome, which all require entirely different treatment options.
This is easier said than done (you can’t avoid the outdoors!), but there are things you can do to help keep those allergies at bay:
If you are prone to allergy-related eye irritation, stop wearing your contacts for the first month or so of spring weather. While contacts do not cause allergy symptoms, they can aggravate any symptoms that do appear. If you must wear contacts, switch to daily wear lenses so they can be thrown out each night and eliminate prolonged exposure to allergens that make contact with your lenses. And, if you do want to switch over to full-time glasses instead, schedule an eye exam so we can make sure your prescription is accurate.
Over-the-counter preservative-free artificial tears can be used to help clean the surface of your eye if you’re outside for prolonged periods of time. Decongestant or antihistamine drops can also help control redness, itchiness, and other symptoms. But before you begin a new eye health regimen, consult with your doctor to see what brand and formula may be best for you.
Allergies can bring on redness, tenderness, and swelling around the eye. Cold therapy can soothe these irritating symptoms and even improve the appearance of your inflamed skin around the eye. Soak a soft cloth in cool water, wring it out, and place it directly over your eyes. Put it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes for a longer lasting cool compress.
Did you wash your hands a lot this winter to keep illnesses at bay? Keep it up in the spring to help with your allergies. In addition, wash your face twice a day and rinse the area around your eyes as needed. Washing your face and hands regularly will reduce the concentration of allergens on your skin.
If you have to be outdoors, grab sunglasses with large wrap-around lenses. This will help protect the surface of your eyes from direct contact with allergens. And, if you’re an athlete, bike rider, or ride on a motorcycle or in convertible, good sunglasses are extremely important for blocking pollen from entering your eye or adhering to your lashes.
In extreme cases, an allergist may be necessary to help determine the specific allergen causing your symptoms. Oral antihistamines or steroids may help, especially if there are sinus symptoms involved with your allergies. Some of these drugs can dry out the eye, which can make symptoms worse, so good communication is necessary between the two specialists. If test results are outside the normal range, a series of allergy shots may lessen your sensitivity, but it can take months or even years to improve symptoms.
Spring is a beautiful time to get out and enjoy the budding trees, warm breezes, and green grass; however, they can increase allergy symptoms in and around your eyes. A visit to the eye doctor can offer a diagnosis and a customized treatment plan to help you get on with life.