Seasonal allergies affect millions of people every year, and they can be particularly hard on our eyes, leaving them red, itchy, and watery. Why does this happen and what can we do about it?
While there are plenty of allergens that can make our eyes water year round, such as dust and pet dander, seasonal allergies typically flare up twice a year: in the spring and the fall. This can mean long months of congestion, an itchy nose, mouth, eyes, or throat, puffy eyes, sneezing, and coughing for people with allergies.
The reason our allergies act up the most during spring and fall is that trees and grass pollinate throughout the spring, while ragweed pollinates in the fall. Mold will also send out spores around the same time. Allergic reactions, including seasonal allergies, are the result of our immune systems overreacting to these allergens. Unfortunately, much of this overreaction takes place right on the surface of our eyes.
Depending on how your body reacts to allergens, you could experience a wide variety of eye-related symptoms during allergy seasons. The most common are the aforementioned itchiness, redness, and watery discharge. These could be accompanied by a burning sensation, contact lens discomfort, swollen eyelids, and a scratchy or gritty feeling. You could also experience adverse side-effects from decongestants, which might dry out your eyes as well as your sinuses, making them even more vulnerable to airborne allergens.
Because many allergens are airborne, avoiding allergic reactions can be difficult, but there are a few things you can do to minimize your exposure. It’s best to stay indoors on extra windy days when the most allergens are in the air. You should also wear a pollen mask while doing yard work, and avoid using window fans that could blow pollen and spores into your house. Sunglasses (or regular glasses) can shield your eyes from pollen.
If you do end up having an allergy attack, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and use eye drops if your eyes are irritated, especially if your allergy medications are drying out your eyes. You might want to swap out your contacts for glasses until you feel better, because contact lenses can make your eyes more vulnerable. And try not to rub your eyes very often, because doing so will only irritate them more!
If you’re experiencing significant eye irritation, whether as an effect of seasonal allergies or for any other reason, don’t hesitate to come see us! Keeping your eyes healthy is our top priority, and together we can come up with the best plan to beat those allergies.