What is it about the springtime that makes eyes turn red, itchy, and puffy? Is it only allergies? How can we tell when it’s something else? And, of course, what can we do to defeat seasonal allergies so that we can enjoy spring wildlife?
Many things, from dust to perfume to pet dander, can cause seasonal allergies. It isn’t always limited to a specific time of year, either, but they can get worse in the spring and autumn due to pollen. Plants like grass pollinate in the spring, while ragweed pollinates in the fall.
During pollination, the air is full of tiny floating particles that can irritate our eyes and airways. For people with overactive immune systems, that leads to itchy eyes, congestion, and a lot of sneezing.
Eye-related allergy symptoms typically include redness, itchiness, and watering. These may be accompanied by a gritty or scratchy feeling, swollen eyelids, a burning sensation, and extra discomfort with contact lenses. Decongestants can improve the respiratory symptoms but at the potential cost of making the eye symptoms worse by drying them out and making them even more vulnerable to the irritants in the air.
Staying well hydrated is one of the best things you can do during an allergy attack, along with eye drops (particularly if the other allergy meds are drying your eyes out). We might recommend sticking to glasses for the duration of your symptoms so that you don’t have to deal with the discomfort of allergies combined with contact lenses. Contact lenses can even trap allergens against the eye and make symptoms worse! Finally, don’t rub your eyes, no matter how itchy they get.
No matter how careful we are, it’s impossible to entirely avoid the pollen in the air during allergy season, but we can certainly minimize our exposure. Keep your windows closed and avoid placing fans in front of windows where they can blow pollen inside. Something as simple as wearing sunglasses (or regular glasses) will offer a little eye protection from pollen. Try to stay inside on windy days, and if you have to do yard work during allergy season, a pollen mask can really help.
If you’re having eye trouble, no matter what the cause is, the optometrist is here to help. We want our patients to be able to get the most out of the new spring, so make sure to call if you get hit with a case of itchy, runny eyes!