Allergies. We all struggle with them. If you don’t, then you’re lucky. The sneezing, sniffing, stuffy nose and all around discomfort are enough to make anyone go crazy. Most of us focus on the nasal symptoms when it comes to allergies, and many of us ignore our itchy, watery, red eyes.

What causes eye allergies?

Eye allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis, is caused when an allergen irritates your eyes, causing them to react. The allergen causes certain cells in the eye (called mast cells) to release histamine and other substances or chemicals that cause blood vessels in the eyes to swell, and the eyes to become itchy, red and watery.

Allergens are everywhere, both indoors and outdoors, and cause everyone to react differently. The most common outdoor allergens are grass, tree and weed pollens. People who are sensitive to these allergens suffer from seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, the most common type of eye allergy.

Pet hair or dander, dust mites and molds are the most common indoor allergens. These indoor allergens can trigger symptoms for some people throughout the year, resulting in perennial allergic conjunctivitis.

What are symptoms of eye allergies?

The most common eye allergy symptoms include:

•   Red, swollen or itchy eyes
•   Burning or tearing of the eyes
•   Sensitivity to light

How do you treat eye allergies?

Treating allergies can vary depending on the type and the severity. The best advice is to try to avoid the allergens you know. For example, if you are allergic to pollen try to avoid going outside too much. Another example, if pet dander or fur is a trigger for you, keep pets outside. Or maybe consider getting a fish.

Of course if you can’t avoid certain allergens, there are alternatives like eye drops and medicine. Make sure you check with Dr. Ephraim before using any type of medications or eye drops. Trust us, he knows what he’s talking about and he will prevent you from using over-the-counter products that could make your symptoms worse.

Artificial tears

Artificial tears (preservative free) can help relieve eye allergies temporarily by diluting and washing allergens from the eye. They also relieve dry, irritated eyes by adding moisture. These drops, available without a prescription, can be used as often as you need them.

Decongestants (with or without antihistamines)

Decongestants reduce redness in the eyes from allergies. They are available as over-the-counter eyedrops. They may be sold simply as a decongestant or as a decongestant with an antihistamine, which relieves eye itchiness. These types of eyedrops should not be used for more than two to three days, as longer-term use actually increases your irritating symptoms.

Oral antihistamines

Oral antihistamines may be somewhat helpful in relieving itchy eyes; however, they can make eyes dry and even worsen eye allergy symptoms. Use with care as these may make you drowsy.

Antihistamine

Eyedrops with both an antihistamine to relieve itchiness and a mast-cell stabilizer help prevent eye allergies. They are used 1-2 times a day to relieve itching, redness, tearing and burning.