While many of us cheer on spring, others dread it. That’s because they know they’re in for months of red, itchy and watery eyes, thanks to an inevitable spell of eye allergies.
One of the most common culprits is hay fever, known medically as allergic rhinitis. Hay fever is caused by the immune system reacting to common allergens in the environment. This includes pollen, house dust mites, moulds, and animal skin cells and fur. 1 in 5 Australians suffer from it every year.
In addition to a runny nose and sneezing, the most common symptoms are:
- Red eyes
- Watery eyes
- Sore eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Gritty eyes
- Sandy eyes
Why Does Hay Fever Affect My Eyes?
Allergic eye reactions are caused by an organic compound, known as histamine. When you’re exposed to a substance that you’re allergic to, it is your immune system that tries to protect the body. This system starts a chain reaction that causes cells to release histamine into the bloodstream. A person suffers from hay fever symptoms, such as itchy, red and watery eyes, because the histamine acts on the eyes. Antihistamines are designed to inhibit histamines.
Many people who suffer from hay fever and eye allergies also experience associated conjunctivitis. Our optometrist, Paul Fotkou, has seen an increasing prevalence of allergic conjunctivitis. However, there are a range of treatments available to help make eye allergies more tolerable.
Relieving Eye Allergies
There are a few approaches that you can take to aid relief from eye allergies.
We know this is much easier said than done, but the best way to control your eye allergy symptoms is to limit your exposure to allergens. Adelaide is renowned for its high levels of pollen in the atmosphere. On days when the pollen count is high, try staying indoors as much as possible. Peak hour for pollen is between 8 and 10am, and 5 and 7pm. Running the air conditioner to filter the air will also help.
Remove Your Contact Lenses
Contact lenses can accumulate airborne allergens. If you wear monthly or fortnightly contact lenses and have eye allergies, it might be worth considering the switch to disposable daily contacts. Designed for single, one-day use, these lenses avoid the build-up of allergens and other debris on the lens surface. If allergen symptoms persist, the best alternative is to discontinue wearing contacts until all symptoms are resolved.
Believe it or not, your diet can play a role in reducing the severity of eye allergies. In fact, the best source of natural relief from hay fever symptoms is pineapple. Not only is it a refreshing snack for the warmer weather, but pineapple contains bromelain – a compound found to effectively treat respiratory distress and inflammation associated with allergies. Put simply, it contains anti-inflammatory properties. While bromelain can also be found in supplement form, intake is recommended through consumption of the pineapple core or juice.
Certain eye drops are formulated to relieve red, itchy and sore eyes caused by allergies. Optometrist Paul Fotkou can assess the severity of your symptoms and recommend the best eye drops, lubricants or gel for you.
Although a simple, home remedy, a cold compress will help to soothe red, inflamed eyes. It is a great solution for quick relief.
Antihistamines or anti-inflammatories help to reduce allergy symptoms. In people with allergies, the body mistakes something harmless, such as pollen, for a threat. The body then produces histamine, which causes the allergy symptoms. Taking antihistamines before coming into contact with the substance you’re allergic to is a proactive approach. This helps to reduce the severity of symptoms, as opposed to taking them afterwards.
Allergies All Year Round
If you suffer from eye allergies all year round, it may not be triggered by pollen. Instead, you may be suffering allergies from dust mites, pet dander (skin cells and fur), or other environmental allergens.
If your eyes suffer from hay fever or allergy symptoms, speak to your optometrist about treatment. Paul Fotkou will assess and diagnose your eye allergy and provide appropriate treatment to relieve it.