Blooming Dogwood trees, thousands of tulips at the Botanical Garden, chirping birds in the air. Animals and people alike come out of hibernation and feel the wind in their hair and the sun on their face. Ah, yes, Spring has sprung, and with the beauty of it all comes…aachoo! Sneezing, head congestion, and itchy, red, watery eyes. What could be better than seasonal allergies? How about relief from them?
Seasonal allergies are often treated with antihistamines which block those nasty irritants we react to. These are often given as oral medication by a primary care doctor, or as over-the-counter medication. Although antihistamines can make us feel better, often times, they don’t relieve our “allergy eyes”. “That’s because oral antihistamines work to dry up the excess production of mucous and liquid, so even your tears dry up”, says Dr. Shofner.
How can someone get relief from “allergy eyes”? Firstly, try to avoid the exposure. For example, staying inside where an air conditioner can filter out the pollen, or wearing sunglasses while outside to shield the eyes as much as possible.
Dr. Shofner reminds us that, “contact lenses don’t allow the cornea to breathe. Contacts can trap allergens which then, in turn, stick to the surface of the cornea.” Using only daily contacts gives you a fresh pair every day, and wearing contacts for a shorter period of the day is even better.
Continue on tear producing medication like Restasis, if you are already taking it. If you aren’t currently taking any artificial tears, “start today,” says Dr. Shofner. A word of caution on artificial tears, though—use a preservative-free drop. These won’t irritate the delicate surface of the eye, and have a better balance to the ingredients.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can be prescribed as an eye drop to decrease inflammation and swelling associated with seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, and on a rare occasion, steroids may be needed. The use of a steroid is typically prescribed for a short-time due to the effect on pressure, glaucoma, and cataracts.
If, after a few days of treatment on your own, the symptoms have not gotten better, it may be time to see your Ophthalmologist. There could be a bigger problem than just “allergy eyes”.