EYE HEALTH & SAFETY
Outdoor allergens such as ragweed, grass or tree pollen can bring on seasonal allergies but indoor triggers including pet dander, mold, feathers in bedding and dust mites can cause symptoms all year long. Cigarette smoke, perfume, car exhaust and some cosmetics can also bring on symptoms for some.
When allergens come in contact with your body, they bind themselves to antibodies in your body. It is the activated antibodies that then trigger the mast cell in your eyes that are loaded with histamine to release their contents. In response, your immune system starts to release large quantities of histamine and other chemicals from these mast cells to combat the allergens. In short, the process is an overreaction of the immune system to generally harmless allergens
What Are Eye Allergy Symptoms?
Clear, watery discharge
While these symptoms can appear alone, they can also come with a stuffy nose, sneezing and sniffling.
Managing and Treating Eye Allergies
Unfortunately, eye allergy symptoms can be difficult to completely eradicate. The first step in management is avoidance. Try to stay away from the particular allergy by:
- Keeping windows closed when pollens are more likely to be in the air. Use air-conditioning when possible in your car or home.
- Wearing glasses or sunglasses when you are outside also helps to keep pollen out of your eyes.
- Using, “mite proof” bedding.
- Using a dehumidifier to keep mold at bay.
- Making sure to wash your hands after petting animals.
- Cleaning floors with a damp mop. Sweeping can stir up rather than get rid of allergens.
- Keeping the filters in your furnace clean
- You can control some symptoms by:
- Holding a clean face cloth soaked in ice-cold water over closed eyes for 5-10 minutes to reduce itchiness.
- Using non-prescription artificial tear eye drops, especially if they are stored in the refrigerator to keep them cold. Repeating these simple procedures two to three times per day is recommended.
- Antihistamine drops
- Oral antihistamines (note that they may dry your eyes and make your symptoms worse)
Symptoms that persist warrant further evaluation by a doctor of optometry. A professional examination of the eye with a bio-microscope provides a magnified view of eye tissues and structures, allowing an optometrist to identify the signs of allergy and rule out other causes of eye irritation such as bacterial or viral infections.
What are the treatments for allergies among children?
Minimizing or eliminating contact with the offending trigger, if it is known, is the most effective way to treat allergies. Make sure your child washes their hands and face frequently, and resists touching or rubbing their eyes.
Holding a clean face cloth soaked in ice-cold water over closed eyes for 5-10 minutes will reduce itchiness. Non-prescription artificial tear eye drops also will provide relief, especially if they are stored in the refrigerator to keep them cold. Repeating these simple procedures two to three times per day is recommended.
Symptoms that persist despite these simple approaches warrant further evaluation by a doctor of optometry. A professional examination of the eye with a bio-microscope provides a magnified view of eye tissues and structures, allowing a doctor of optometry to identify the signs of allergy and rule out other causes of eye irritation such as bacterial or viral infections.
Once the eye allergy is confirmed, your optometrist can recommend and prescribe specific allergy medications depending on the child’s age and the severity of the eye irritation. Non-prescription decongestant and antihistamine eye drops can provide temporary relief from redness and itching in older children, but often cause a rebound reaction and worsening of symptoms if used longer than a few days. The use of these non-prescription allergy eye drops in children is not recommended unless professionally advised. Prescription allergy eye drops are more effective at reducing inflammation of ocular tissues, and may be prescribed by your doctor of optometry for more severe eye allergies, even in young children. An optometrist can advise you when it is useful to see an allergist for formal allergy tests.