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When You Have Eye Allergies

Eye allergies affect at least 1 in 5 people in the U.S. every year. These allergies can feel very uncomfortable. But this type of eye problem can’t be spread from person to person.

An eye allergy can be seasonal when it's caused by pollens at a certain time of year. Or it can be year-round when it's caused by other types of allergens. These include things such as pets, feathers, perfumes, or eye makeup.

Eye allergies are often linked to other allergic conditions, particularly hay fever and eczema.

Symptoms

Eye allergies often affect both eyes. The main symptoms of an eye allergy (also called allergic conjunctivitis) include itchy eyes, increased tearing, burning, red or pink eyes, and mild swelling of the eyelids.

Sometimes an eye infection can develop in addition to the eye allergy. This happens when bacteria on your fingers or hands enter your eyes after you scratch or rub them.

Self-care

Home treatment often can provide relief from allergy-related discomfort. Try the following:

  • Don't go outside in the mid-morning and early evening. This is when pollen counts are highest.

  • Use air conditioners and keep windows closed instead of using window fans. Fans can draw in pollen and mold from outdoors.

  • When outside, wear sunglasses or other eye protection. This helps to limit the amount of pollen that can reach your eyes.

  • Limit how often you wear contact lenses or stop using them. Allergens tend to stick on contact lenses.

  • To keep dust mites at a minimum, wash bedding, especially pillows, in hot water.

  • Use a damp mop when cleaning the floor. Use a damp rag when dusting.

  • Wash your hands after handling or petting an animal.

  • If you have a pet that you're allergic to, keep it outside of your house, if possible, or at least keep it out of your bedroom.

  • Clean humid places in your house regularly. These include the bathroom, kitchen, and basement. This can help to cut down on mold.

  • Even if your eyes itch, don't rub them.

  • Wash off allergens. If you've been outside, use a wet washcloth to clean allergens off your eyelids and the surrounding area. Artificial tears can help wash allergens from the eyes. Apply a cold washcloth to itchy eyes. Wash your hair every night because it collects lots of pollen.

  • Use antihistamine eye drops as directed. If your eyes are still itchy or bloodshot after you rinse them, you may use over-the-counter eye drops. Don't use them for more than 2 to 3 days. Longer use can make your eyes even more irritated.

  • Apply a cold compress to puffy eyes.

  • Try an oral antihistamine if other treatments don't work. But check with your healthcare provider first. Some oral antihistamines can cause dry eyes, more irritation and have unpleasant side effects. These include sleepiness, dizziness, and excitability.

When to call your healthcare provider

If you still have problems after 2 days of self -care, contact your eye care provider right away. They may prescribe 1 of these:

  • Antihistamine eye drops. These eye drops may only give relief for a few hours.

  • Mast cell stabilizers. These are eye drops used as a preventive measure. They are taken before you are exposed to an allergen.

  • A mix of antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops

  • Corticosteroid eye drops. These have side effects. So they should only be used short-term and under the care of an eye care provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Haupert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2021
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