Spring is finally here! It’s the season of sunshine, flowers blooming, trees budding and lush, green grass. Spring is in the air! Unfortunately for some of us, tree and plant pollens are also in the air. It is the season of spring allergies. We see a lot of red, itchy, burning eyes this time of year. If seasonal allergies like to pay a visit to your eyes, below are some ways to help get yourself through this uncomfortable season:
If your eyes are only mildly affected by allergies (mild irritation or tearing), one of the best home remedies is relaxing with a cool compress over closed eyelids. Put a damp cloth in the fridge for a few minutes to get the temperature quite cool. Apply a little pressure with the cloth on the eyelids for five minutes, twice a day. The cool compress may be enough to bring minor irritation down to a comfortable level.
If the compress does not give enough relief, instilling a preservative free lubricating eye drop four or five times a day will help to flush allergens out of the eye and soothe the eyes. Drops with preservatives can cause increased irritation to an already inflamed eye, so the type of drop selected is very important. We often recommend a preservative free drop that contains only Sodium Hyaluronate (very similar to the body’s own tear fluid). The drops form a clear, long lasting protective film on the front surface of the eye. Redness and grittiness will often go away, leaving the eyes refreshed. It also aides the front surface of the eye to heal from the inflammation.
If you suffer from more than a mild irritation (eyes are often red, itchy and burning) then an anti-allergy drop would be of benefit. There are two kinds of anti-allergy drops. “Mast-cell stabilizers” work to stop our bodies from releasing histamines in the first place and thus stop our allergic responses. These have to be used long term and it takes a few weeks of using the drop for it to be effective. Anti-histamines are found in other drops and can be used to stop an allergic reaction once it is started. There are some drops that have both of these components in them and work great in combination. These are available by prescription.
Some over-the-counter drops labeled as anti-allergy also contain a decongestant. These help to get the red out as they constrict the blood vessels in the eyes. The drops are fast acting but should not be used long term as the constriction of blood vessels is not healthy for the eyes on a long basis and can cause rebound congestion.
Severe allergic reactions (swelling, pain, tearing, red eyes) should be seen the same day by an optometrist and often prescription eye drops are used along with oral antihistamines to reduce the inflammation. This type of inflammation can be quite uncomfortable and cause blurred vision or scarring of the eyes and is nothing to let go unchecked.
Spring is a fantastic time of the year, and should be for everyone, including allergy sufferers. We at Grand River Eye Care wish everyone a happy spring and summer. Don’t let the itchy eyes get you down!
Dr. Robin Apfelbeck