How Allergies Affect Your Eyes
Allergy symptoms can be more than sneezing, coughing, stuffy nose, or runny nose. Allergies can affect your eyes as well.
If your eyes are frequently red and itchy or watery, you may suffer from allergic conjunctivitis or ocular allergy. This is caused when you either inhale an allergen or the allergen comes in contact with the surface of your eye. Allergic conjunctivitis should not be confused with infectious conjunctivitis. Ocular allergy is not contagious, you can’t give it to the people around you.
Allergy Eye Symptoms
Many things can cause allergy eyes, but the symptoms are few.
- Watery eyes
- Runny eyes
- Puffy eyelids
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Red eyes
These symptoms can occur with or without respiratory symptoms. They are incredibly annoying but do not pose a danger to your eyesight.
Causes of Allergy Eyes
Allergy eyes are most commonly associated with hay fever or seasonal allergies. But allergies can affect your eyes any time of year. In Fall and Winter, the culprits are often molds, dust mites, and pet allergens.
During cooler weather, our homes are closed up tight to conserve heat. This means we get little fresh air and allergens from dust mites and pets are trapped inside. This can increase allergen concentrations high enough to trigger your symptoms.
Humidifiers add moisture to make the environment more comfortable. They can also add mold.
Comforters and blankets make our beds warm and comfy. They also make a great home for dust mites. A home that doesn’t get cleaned very often.
Pollen is the primary source of allergy eyes in the Spring and Summer months. Dust mites and pet allergens cause allergy eyes during warmer months as well.
Controlling Allergy Eyes
No matter the time of year, if you have allergy eyes you want it to stop. Controlling the allergy eyes is all about controlling exposure to the allergens. That starts with diligent and consistent hand washing. But that’s just the start. From there you need to take action depending on your triggers.
For pollen allergies, you can wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes. Wearing a mask will help prevent pollen from being inhaled. If you are outside on high pollen days, shower, wash your hair and change your clothes when you come inside. This keeps the pollen from spreading all over the house. Keep pets inside on high pollen days too. Otherwise, the pet will bring pollen into the house on their fur.
Speaking of pets, they are a major source of allergy eyes. Handwashing is critical to reducing the amount of allergen that reaches your eyes. The protein that causes allergic reactions is found in the saliva and urine of animals. So, if you touch pet toys covered in saliva you need to wash your hands. In addition to frequently brushing the pet and vacuuming to get shed allergens, you need to go after the allergens still on the animal. Apply Allerpet coat conditioner once a week to denature the protein. This safely and gently breaks down the protein. If you touch the protein and touch your eye it won’t cause an allergic reaction.
If you wash your dog at home, use a denaturing pet shampoo. These shampoos not only cleanse the fur, but they also neutralize the allergen-causing proteins. Be careful not to shampoo the dog too often. This leads to dry, irritated skin and the dog will lick more often to soothe the skin. This just leads to more allergen instead of less.
Dust Mite Allergies
Dust mite allergen is the most common indoor allergen. If you have allergy eyes in the morning when you wake up, you probably have allergy eyes. That’s because dust mites are concentrated in our bedding. When you go to bed at night, you crawl into a bed full of allergens and inhale them all night. Yuck! When you wake up the result is itchy, watery, or red puffy eyes.
To combat the dust mites, you must wash bed linens frequently in very hot water. The bed should be stripped every 7 days. Sheets, pillowcases, blankets, and duvets should be washed in 140°F water. If you cannot get water this hot (or like to wash in cooler temperatures to preserve your linens) you can either use an additive like De-Mite or an allergy laundry detergent such as Allergen Wash.
Since you can’t wash your pillow or mattress, you can use zippered dust mite proof covers to trap allergens inside and put a barrier between you and the dust mite allergens.
Medication for Allergy Eyes
Artificial tears bring only temporary relief. They will wash out allergens, but if you don’t remove the source they will just return.
Oral antihistamines can stop the watering, but they can dry out your eyes.
Decongestant eye drops like Visine can be used for a few days, but long-term use leads to problems.
Prescription antihistamines and corticosteroids can bring relief from allergy eyes as well as respiratory systems. These can be taken orally or as a nasal spray.
While not technically a medication, immunotherapy can be highly effective. It teaches your body to naturally suppress the immune response.
The best medication for allergy eyes is avoiding allergens. If you aren’t sure what is triggering your allergic reactions see the allergist for testing.
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